Everybody throughout their lives deals with a thing. It’s there. You can’t always see it, but you can feel it. It never really goes away. You can try to put it on the top shelf, hide it under the bed, throw it in the back of the closet, and yet this thing never seems to disappear. Why is it so hard to move on? Why does it feel like an impossible mountain to climb? Are we destined to be stuck in these recurring nightmares forever? Let’s unpack this together. Let’s find a way forward. What’s your thing?
Well, good morning to everybody and, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app — our mobile app-ritioners. I like that word. Well, we’re glad to have you. Anyway, we’re in a series called “The Thing.” The idea behind this is that when you talk with people in their lives, especially if you’re a pastor and people come talk to you, you realize that as people try to live out their lives, practically, and try to follow Jesus and follow the things that He’s asked us to do, oftentimes you’ll find that somebody will come along and say, “I just have the same thing that I just keep beating my head up against all the time.”
And it may be a number of different things for them. It may be anger. It may be lust. It may be addictions. It may be a number of things. It might be jealousy or envy. There’s a number of things it could be, but it just seems like that’s a recurring thing in their life. What I’ve been trying to submit over the last several weeks is that we, as Christians, often focus on symptoms and we try to deal with symptoms rather than dealing with root causes, which is why the big idea in the series is this: The thing that we think is the thing is usually not the thing.
We’ve talked about that. You know, several weeks ago, we talked about unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is the root cause of so many symptoms in our lives. If we’re shooting at the symptoms, we’re never dealing with the root causes. So, oftentimes, we don’t get better because we’re not dealing with the real thing. We’re dealing with a thing, but not the real thing. We talked about discerning the body. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 11, “Here are the symptoms when we don’t properly do life together as a church.”
So, that’s the thing that’s behind the thing. So, you’ve got these symptoms and then you’ve got these root causes. Last week, we talked about attitude. We talked about how incredible our attitude is in creating things in our lives. Oftentimes, we have so many bad things in our lives, not because of those symptoms, but because we just have a bad attitude. And we have control over that.
Well, this particular weekend, I’m going to deal with a subject that many of you all may not be familiar with. I mean, you’ll know the term, but you’ll try to go, “I wonder what he means by the term?”
We’re going to define all of that and I’m going to explain all of that. But, I believe this subject will absolutely change your life if you listen to it, because I think it’s something that’s pervasive within the Church, it’s pervasive within people who attend church regularly. And, oftentimes, we don’t see it. But, it is a real cause of a lot of symptoms in our lives. That is religion. We’re going to deal with that today and I’m going to define that for you. Because, oftentimes, when you use the word “religion,” people are like, “Oh. Isn’t that the song? ‘Give me that old time religion?’ Isn’t that a good thing? In James 1, doesn’t it say that pure religion and undefiled is to visit the widows, the orphans and their affliction and all of that?”
Yes. There is a positive side, you could say, to this word. I want to talk about the negative side of this word, because I think that Jesus came to show us that religion is not the way to the Father. In fact, we’re going to sort of talk about that today. And I hope you understand that sacred cows do make the best hamburger meat. Right? You know that, correct? Anyway, I think it’s a little gloomy outside. Before I get into religion here, I think you all just need a joke. I haven’t told this joke in any of the other services. So, this is your joke. It’s not theologically correct. It’s a little edgy in some ways. So, it’s a good way to go into sort of taking a wrecking ball to religion.
So, there was this small church in Tennessee that was having a funeral service. A lady had passed away. There are 60-70 people in the church. They were carrying the casket out. On the way out, they hit the wall with the casket. They heard a moan. They were like, “Really? So, they opened up the casket. Sure enough, she was alive. It’s like, “Whoa, man! This is awesome!”
Well, she lived for 10 years and then she died again. So, they had the funeral there. You know? Sixty people. And they were carrying the casket out, and the husband goes, “Don’t hit the wall!”
So, there you go. I knew you all needed a joke to liven up. Okay. So, let’s talk about religion. I’m going to define it here in a minute, but I want to sort of show you the symptoms of religion. This is the root cause. This is the thing behind the thing. This is what religion will do in a lot of people’s lives: Guilt. It’ll create a lot of guilt. A lot of people feel guilty and they feel like, “I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to do the right thing. I’m trying to the right thing. I never do the right thing. I feel so guilty.”
That’s religion doing that. It doesn’t provide all guilt. Some guilt is good. But, the reality is that religion does create a lot of guilt. Another thing that it creates is what I call “PBA.” I know some of y’all, there in the back, thought that said, “PBR,” and you’re like, “Yeah!”
That’s not what it said. Okay? It’s PBA, which is what I call “Performance Based Acceptance.” And here’s the way we sort of do this. We think, “If I pray and read my Bible this week, God loves me more. I didn’t read my Bible and didn’t pray. God loves me less.”
So, what you do is you get on sort of this hamster wheel of trying to perform for God so that He’ll love you more. And then, when you don’t do the right things, He loves you less. That’s not true. That comes from religion. And a lot of people live there. They live their Christian lives, their whole Christian lives, trying to get God to accept them, when, in fact, He’s already accepted you and me.
Another thing it leads to is good, old-fashioned pride. Sometimes people get religious and they’re like, “I’m right. You’re wrong,” and it creates a lot of pride. And then that pride leads to anger and frustration, and ultimately leads to treating people as the other. Let me tell you: Most wars throughout the history of humanity have come through religion. Religion. Because religion says, “I’m right and you’re wrong. And I’m willing to kill you for that, ultimately.”
Which is crazy, because Jesus said we’re supposed to love our enemies. And when we do, this is what religion does: Religion will get us all fired up and all of this stuff. So, what we want to do is we want to deal with it, but what is religion? So, I want to take a moment here. I’ve got a fairly lengthy definition. I want you to lean in here and listen, because I believe this message can really help you out in your practical life. In fact, I believe it can change your life from this point forward.
So, here we go. Here’s what religion is: Religion is any set of beliefs and/or behaviors. It’s got to have both components. You’ve got a set of beliefs. “I’ve got to believe this, believe this and believe this,” and, “I’ve got to behave this way, behave this way and behave this way, and do these things. Can’t do that. Can’t do this.”
You know, you’ve heard the old thing. I don’t drink, cuss or chew, and I don’t run with those that do. Right? You’ve heard that one before? So, this is any set of beliefs and/or behaviors — listen, this is important here — that we believe bridge the gap between us and God. In other words, this is important. You’ve got a set of beliefs or behaviors — “Do these things, do these things and believe these things. I’ve got to get all this stuff and write the check marks.”
Then what that does is that bridges the gap between us and God, because we did the right things and we believe the right things or we thought the right way, or we did the right behaviors, or we prayed the right prayer, or we did the right thing. And we believe that bridges the gap between us and God that ultimately leads to an us versus them mentality. And it does this in all religions.
“I want to fight about this stuff, because we’re right and you’re wrong. I’ve got the right set of beliefs, and this is the only way to bridge our way to God.”
And it creates the us versus them mentality, thus creating a sense of belonging. You’ve got your tribe. You know who your tribe is. You know what you believe. You know what the deal is. You’ve got the us versus them. This is what good, old-fashioned religion is. Let me explain how we get there. Let me explain how we get to this particular place in our life.
Somewhere along the way, we decide — and it may have been in a mosque, it could’ve been in a synagogue, it could’ve been a tent revival, or it could’ve been at a church. Somewhere along the way, we go, “You know what? There’s got to be something else to life. There’s got to be something else out there.”
So, at that point, somewhere along the way, we realize that there’s a need for us to do something to close the gap between us and God. Keyword here is that we do something to close that gap between us and God. And somebody comes along in that moment, wherever we were at, and they provide us and they present us a set of beliefs, creeds, prayers, rules and/or regulations, whatever it may be, and they go, “Here it is.”
It’s like, here’s the game. You open the game up. Here’s the game of religion. And there’s a bunch of different games you can play. You open up that game. Here’s the rule book. If you do these things and say these things and belief these things and do this stuff, then, all of a sudden, you are in and everybody else is out. And here’s what it leads to: It ultimately manifests itself in an us versus them mentality that leads to spiritual pride. There’s no way around it. It just does this.
And Jesus knew this. Jesus knew about religion, because the people that were the most religious people of Jesus’ day were the Pharisees. I mean, they went to church, they sang all the right hymns, they believed all the right things, they could recite Scripture, they just weren’t close to God at all, even though they thought that they were. Jesus tells a parable to a group of Pharisees, and He says, “Hey, a tax collector went up to pray and a Pharisee went up to pray.”
And He turns it on its head and says, “The tax collector was the one that was more righteous when they left.”
Here’s the way Luke starts that parable: “He told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.”
Now, see, we don’t go around telling everybody that we treat others with contempt, but when you’ve got good, old-fashioned religion flowing through your veins, you do.
“I can’t believe they do that. I can’t believe they live that way. I️ got it right. I’m on the right side. They’re on the wrong side.”
And, before long, you’re just as religious as can be, because religion does this to us. And here’s what religion does: Religion gives us our security by comparison. We look at other people like, “I don’t do that. I don’t act like that. I don’t live that lifestyle. I got it right. I’ve got the right set of beliefs, the right set of stuff.”
But, before long, there’s this contempt and this looking down upon other people. And we don’t say it. We do the, “Oh, no. Yeah, God loves everybody,” but we don’t really believe that deep down inside, because they’re the other. And not only that, but we learn real quickly to profess other sins rather than confessing our own.
“Oh, those sinners. They’re doing that.”
Not realizing that we have some issues within as well. So, what is religion? It’s any set of beliefs and/or behaviors that we believe bridge the gap between us and God, that ultimately leads to an us versus them mentality, thus creating a sense of belonging. There’s 40,000 denominations in the United States. Forty-thousand. People who go, “That’s my tribe.”
And they fight about stuff. I mean, they’ll fight about crazy stuff. Like, crazy stuff. Like, things that you wouldn’t even believe. Like, “Seriously? You want to die on that hill for that?”
“Absolutely, because that’s the right set of beliefs and behaviors, and if I don’t get that right, then I’m not bridging the gap between me and God. And then I don’t know that I’m in.”
And it’s really bad when you’ve got religion, because it’s like half the time you’re not really even doing the set of beliefs and behaviors that you believe keep you in, but you can’t tell everybody that you’re not doing them. Because, if they tell you you’re not doing them, then you’re a “them” and not an “us,” you know what I’m talking about? So, you’ve got to put on the whole show here.
Let me tell you something in no uncertain terms: Jesus came to send a wrecking ball to that type of thinking in our lives. I’m going to show you how He did it, and I think we’re going to have some really good fun. But, before that, I want to make sure that everybody’s on the same page here, and understands this.
If you and I had developed a product, whatever the product is, and we were going to launch it, we would sit down, and we would go, “Where are we going to launch it? Where’s the place that we’re going to launch this? Who are the people that we’re going to have that will be spokesmen? What television? Radio? Advertising?”
Because, you only get one chance to make a first impression, right? Okay. It’s like when they run for office, politicians. They choose the venue where they’re going to run. There’s significance to it. There’s usually historical significance to it. I mean, there’s a reason why they do what they do. There’s a reason why they launch where they launch, because they know when they launch that first thing, that’s the communication everybody’s going to know about them.
Well, Jesus, we’re told, launched with a first sign. That first sign was all about who He was. John tells us that. John tells us, “This is the first of His signs that Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”
In other words, whatever happens in verses John 2:1-10, which we’re going to look at, is His inaugural sign. His, “This is what I came to do.”
And you might be thinking, “Is this where He’s going to heal people?”
“Is this where He’s going to feed a lot of people?”
Nope. What does He do? Well, let’s look at it and let’s see, because this is the inaugural sign that Jesus gives to everybody about why He came. The first one. You can’t go back and do the first one again. The first one is absolutely imperative. And John tells us this is the first sign that Jesus did. Here’s the way it reads.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.”
Some of y’all really like to hear some cool Bible facts and trivia. So, I don’t want to keep anybody from getting a real cool revelation. John starts of his Gospel. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning.”
Now, if you’ve read the Bible before, even if you probably haven’t read the Bible, you’ve probably opened it up to the book of Genesis one time, even as a kid, and saw, “In the beginning.”
So, John uses the same language as Genesis uses to start of his Gospel. Genesis, as you know, if you read, “In the beginning,” what happens? Well, there’s the seven days of creation. There’s the light and darkness and all of that stuff that goes on. Well, John employs the same thing. He gives us seven straight chronological days as he opens up his Gospel, which is really cool because he’s comparing the two in doing that. It’s the only time in the Gospel where we get seven straight days. So, he’s writing very, very specifically.
What’s cool is that this is a third day event, which is really cool because the third day is really significant for Christians. But, it also happens to be the final day of His seven days. So, it’s the third day, but it’s also the seventh day, as you calculate through, which is cool. Because, if Jesus wouldn’t have risen from the dead on the third day, we wouldn’t have the seventh day Sabbath rest. Follow me? Pretty cool stuff.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.”
We don’t know why she was there. We’re not told why she was there. It’s only speculation, but some people say, “Oh, it’s because she was running the wedding,” or whatever. We don’t know. We just know that she was there. And then we also learn this:
“Jesus was also invited to the wedding with his disciples.”
And this would’ve been about four or five of them, because He hasn’t gotten all twelve at this point. He’s got four or five disciples. He’s showing up at a wedding. Now, if you understand the big, this is pregnant. Because, in the Old Testament, the Messiah, when He came, was going to throw a great wedding feast for everybody. So, Jesus, when He comes and starts eating with the outcasts and the sinners at tables, He’s inaugurating that great Messianic banquet that He’s going to do, which, ultimately, we see in conclusion in the book of Revelation with the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
So, He’s at a wedding. This is the first of His miracles. Let’s pay attention here and see what’s going on.
“When the wine ran out,”
That’s huge. For us, today, if you have a wedding, you normally say, “Okay. We’re going to spend X amount of money on the bar.”
And you spend it. And when the bar’s done, it’s done. It’s like cut off. We actually have a sign in America for this. It says, “Cut off.”
And they need to do more of that at the Cheesecake Factory around noon with that diverging diamond. Can I get an amen? Anyway, in Jesus’ day, weddings were different. You had a long, long, long engagement deal where the groom would go set up the house and get everything prepared so then he could come and get the bridge and they could consummate the marriage. And then there would be two to three days, up to a week, of celebration after that. That’s why when Jesus says, in John 14, “I’m going to go prepare a place for you,” that’s within a wedding theme. He’s going to prepare the house and then come get the bride to consummate the marriage.
So, all that stuff is pregnant in the understanding of the Bible. So, Jesus, here, is at this wedding, and the wine has run out. In the first century, especially if you were a Jew and you had a wedding, if you didn’t have enough wine, believe it or not, the people at the wedding ceremony could sue you. That’s how serious. You talk about a real bad social no-no, to run out of stuff at the wedding. I mean, this is an honor and shame society, not like ours. Honor and shame is completely different. This is a bad, bad, bad day for the groom if he runs out of wine.
And it says, “The mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’”
I can tell you that she’s not the only person walking around the wedding going, “They have no wine.”
I mean, everybody’s going, “Can you believe they ran out of wine? Can you believe it? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? This is terrible.”
Especially if it’s a family member. It’s like, “What are we going to do? They have no wine. Can we do anything about this? This is terrible. There’s no wine.”
So, she goes to Jesus and says, “They have no wine.”
She’s not going to Jesus saying, “Can you do a miracle?”
He hasn’t even done one yet. This is His first one. She’s just saying, “They don’t have any wine. What are we going to do?”
Just like when the disciples walk up to Jesus and go, “We ain’t got no food, man. There are 5,000 people. Do you want us to go buy something?”
They’re not even thinking about miracles. They’re just saying, “What do we do?”
Jesus’ response is interesting. He says, “‘Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.’”
We read that and we’re like, “Man, that’s pretty tough. That’s His mom.”
Okay. Well, don’t try that at home. “Woman.” That’s right. Yeah. Some cold coffee. This is going to be ugly. But, in the first century, the word “woman” was not a derogatory term. He said it to the woman at the well. “Woman.” But, He’s definitely not embracing His mom and mom, because there’s starting to be a distance now between Jesus and His mother. She’s going to have to come to Him, just like everybody else does, for salvation.
He says, “What does this have to do with me? This isn’t my wedding. My hour has not yet come. It’s not my time yet.”
Now, she has no idea what He’s saying, but He’s saying, “This is not the time here to be doing the whole festive wedding and wine thing, because there will be an hour where I die, and I rise from the dead and all this stuff. My hour will come. What does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
“His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”
Jesus’ father is dead by now. He’s the one who’s taking care of the family. She’s come to him, probably as many other people have come to their sons around there, because this is a real bad embarrassment that the wine has ran out. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t understand what “my hour has not yet come” means. We read that and understand, 2,000 years later, more of what that means. But, in the moment, she would not have understood what that meant.
She goes, “I guess just do whatever He says.”
Now, the next verse is huge. Because, whenever you’re reading Scripture and you’re reading something with a lot of detail that you have no idea what you’re reading about, that’s the time to really focus in as to what’s going on.
John says, “There were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.”
What’s that? Six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites? Okay. This held the holy water. This is where you wash yourself to ritually clean your hands before you eat and throw some water on you. It’s holy water. That’s what it was. It’s holy water. And it’s in six stone water jars? That’s interesting six is one number less than seven; completion. This is the religious tradition of Judaism. And each holding twenty or thirty gallons. So, we’re told that. That’s important.
“Jesus said to the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them to the brim.”
I mean, they understand. This is their holy water. It’d be like walking into a liturgical church and saying, “Fill up the holy water,” and you could fill it all the way to the brim. Because they’re thinking, “Okay. I guess they ran out of wine. Jesus is probably going to do something religious here. Maybe we’re all going to wash again in holy water. Who knows?”
So, they fill it up to the top. They’re like, “We’ll fill it to the top. It sounds like an okay thing or some sort of religious thing going on.”
And then Jesus says, “Here’s what I want you to do. Go draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”
“So they took it.”
Now, they’re thinking along the way, “Why in the world would we take a cup out of holy water to give it to the master of the feast?”
I mean, it’d be like showing up at a Catholic church, walking up in the middle of communion and grabbing the holy water thing and doing a waterfall. Everybody in the church would be like, “What?”
So, He goes, “Take some out to the master of the feast,” and they take it to him.
“When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine,”
It’s wine. Now, he doesn’t know where it came from.
“(Though the servants who had drawn the water knew),”
They’re like, “Dude, that water we just filled up is wine. Whoa. This is crazy.”
Well, the master of the feast doesn’t know that the water pots have turned into wine. He doesn’t know any of that stuff. He calls the bridegroom and he says, “You sly dog. You acted like the wine ran out, but it really hadn’t. You talk about really redeeming yourself. I mean, this was a bad deal. This was really ugly. The embarrassment was big. But, man, you sly dog.”
“‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine.’”
He’s like, “You get a couple of good glasses in, your taste buds are a little bit devalued at that point, and the bad stuff doesn’t taste that bad anymore.”
The truth of the matter is the more you drink, you probably don’t have any idea what it’s tasting like. You know?
He goes, “‘But you have kept the good wine until now.’”
He’s like, “Man. Talking about a redemption. There was a lot of shame and embarrassment. Man, you have redeemed yourself big.”
And then John says, “This was the first sign that Jesus did to display His glory.”
Well, what did He do? What’s the big reveal here? What’s going on? Well, first of all, we need to take a moment here and realize. I call these “things to chew on.” We need to think about this for a second. Number one: In turning water into wine, Jesus, in some sense, devalues their religious tradition. I️ guess the best way I could explain it so that you could understand is if we’ve done communion today and I would’ve put beer in those cups. Some of you’d be like, “Man, that’d be cool, man. I’m going to come back to this church.”
But, many of us would be like, “Eh, that’s a little edgy. That’s a little much right there. I wonder what they’re thinking.”
When Jesus takes the stone water pots of holy water and fills it with wine, that, in no uncertain terms, is a complete devaluation of that whole enterprise. It’s almost as if He’s saying, “Those stone pots can’t do anything for you. All they can do is remind you of your sin every time you wash.”
And He just takes that whole enterprise and changes it into something new. In one sense, we have to see that. The second thing that we need to see — and this is huge — is that if you wanted to have a good party, you invited Jesus. That’s the truth right here. That’ll get religion out of here really quickly. Jesus showed up at parties. And let me show you the extravagance here of what He does, because this is huge.
This groom is absolutely shamed and embarrassed. By Jesus providing the wine, He took away the groom’s shame. Not only that, but if you remember, there were six pots of water, and they held twenty to thirty gallons a piece.
So, somewhere between 120 and 180 gallons of water is now wine. But not just wine, good wine; expensive wine. They didn’t drink all of that 120 to 180 gallons. It wouldn’t have happened. What Jesus has done is not only take away the groom’s shame, but He has provided for their needs. They can sell that wine and pay for everything back that they’ve spent on their wedding, and probably have years of income out of that wine. So, what has Jesus done? He’s taken away their shame and He’s provided for them with an extravagant abundance.
This, the first sign that Jesus does. What’s He want us to see? He wants us to see, “Hey, that religion stuff ain’t going to get you anywhere. I am.”
See, Jesus didn’t come so that we could have a set of creeds or beliefs that we could go, “That’s what I believe in. A bunch of behaviors.”
He brought Himself. The difference between Jesus and religion is religion has a set of beliefs and creeds and things. The difference in Christianity is that we believe in a person. Jesus brought Himself. That’s who we believe in. Christianity is a person. It’s an engagement. And we’ve got to believe that this person, He’s the one that shows up and takes away the shame and the guilt. He’s the one that provides for us abundantly. This is the very first thing that He wants to make sure everybody understands about Him. He is there to give life and to give life more abundantly, and to take away shame and embarrassment from our lives and give us all the wine that we need.
It’s beautiful. So, here’s what I want to do here. Take-homes. These take-homes are questions. I want you to take these questions home and I want you to seriously — this is what I’m asking everybody in this church to do — pray about this this week. I want you to ask God about this this week. There are four questions that I’ve got for you.
The first one is this one: What are my stone pots that need the new wine of Jesus? What are they? What are the dead things of religion in my life that aren’t giving me any life? They’re just creating guilt, confusion, problems and building all kinds of problems with me, God, people and all of that. What are the stone pots that I need the new wine of Jesus in? You know, this here of Ezekiel. When Ezekiel, in the valley of dry bones, is looking out on the valley, God says, “Ezekiel, do you believe these bones can live?”
Ezekiel answers the way we probably all would: “God, only You know. I don’t know.”
God says to Ezekiel, “Speak to the bones and tell them to live.”
What dry bones in your life do you need to speak to right now in the name of Jesus and say, “I want the new wine in those old, dead water pots of religion. I want some new wine in my life.”
I don’t know what it is in your life, but I’m asking you to go home and say, “God, what are the water pots of religion in my life that I need Your new wine in?”
And believe that He can give that new wine and He can do it more exceedingly abundantly than you could ever ask or think. We’re talking about 180 gallons worth of really, really, really good wine. Do you believe God can do that?
Second: Will I allow Jesus to critique the religious belief systems that I cherish and defend? See, we don’t like that about Jesus. Jesus comes and just stomps all over things. You know, when Jesus does this, when He puts the wine in that water pot, do you know what He does? He forever marches Himself toward the cross that the religious people would want to put Him on. See, religion does that to us. It makes us hold onto things. It makes us get mad at people. It makes us get angry. And we don’t want to tell anybody that we’re doing that. We don’t want to really reveal what’s going on on the inside, but that’s what religion does.
And the question is, will you let Jesus come put wine in your water pots? Because He will. Let me tell you. He will do it in spades. Because Jesus didn’t come to bring religion, folks. He came to bring a revolution. And that revolution was that you could have a relationship with God not based on anything that you have done, but based on what He has done for you and me. Will you allow Him? Because that was a tough gig for them. I can tell you that right now. I mean, you put wine in the holy water pots? Jesus says, “That’s not where your life’s coming from, folks. Your life’s coming from me, not that religion. All that religion does is create death, anger, frustration and garbage for you, but I’ve come to give you life and life more abundantly.”
Will you allow Him to critique some of those things? Third thing, and this is huge. Will we once and for all embrace that religion never builds the bridge we so desperately want it to? See, we want so bad to be able to go, “Okay. Here’s the rules. Here’s the stuff. Now I’ve got the bridge and the bridge is there.”
Let me tell you something: Whenever it’s about what you and I do, whenever it’s about performance, it never, ever, ever builds a bridge. It builds walls. It builds walls between you and God, and it builds walls between you and others. The two things God wants for you and me, love God and love others, religion will always build walls. It puts walls between us and God, because we can’t do it, we can’t do it, we try to do it, we want to do it, we can’t do it, we can’t do it, we try to run the hill. And all we do is live in guilt and shame and we never experience all the fullness of God, because we’re trying to build that bridge that we can never build.
And then what it does is it builds walls between other people. Religion will never, ever, ever build the bridge that you want it to, because here’s the truth of the Gospel: Jesus is the bridge. He’s the bridge. You and I don’t go do something, get something right, believe something right so that we can force our way or move our way closer to God. That’s why Jesus came in the first place. He came because we can’t do it. You can’t pray enough. You can’t give enough. You can’t serve enough. You can’t love enough. You can’t do any of that. If it were up to performance, none of us are going to make it to heaven. Period. End of story.
Jesus is the bridge. He said, “I put the bridge between you and me, and all you have to do is walk over it.”
We go, “Yeah, but, but,” No. See? That’s where religion comes in. Religion is the but, but, but, but, but. In Acts 16, when the Philippian Jailer says, “What do I have to do to be saved?”
Paul doesn’t say, “Well, hold on. Let me get my book out here. I’ve got all these things you’ve got to do.”
He says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you’ll be saved.”
You go, “Yeah, but, but,” No. The thief on the cross? “Hey, I want to be with You in paradise.”
He says, “You’re in.”
We go, “Yeah, but that’s not enough. There’s got to be more.”
No. It is enough. There’s nothing you and I can do to bridge that gap. It is what Jesus has done for you and me. Period. John Calvin says it great: “The Son of God became the Son of Man, so the sons of men might become the sons of God.”
Jesus is that bridge. Jesus is your bridge. That’s why everything we do around this church is trying to create a bridge. Everything we do. First Fridays. Christmas on Main. We’re just trying to build bridges to get people to Jesus. Just build a bridge. Not a wall, but a bridge. In everything that we do, a bridge. How can we do that? Because that’s what Jesus does. Jesus does a bridge. He bridged for you and me what we can’t do.
And the last thing I’ll say is this: Will I embrace that religion tries to tell us how to live, but only Jesus can give us life? So, you go to places and they’ll tell you all of these things you’ve got to do and all of the things you can’t do. And then everybody’s trying to figure out how to do it, and none of us do it really that good in the first place, but we don’t want to tell anybody that we’re not doing it that good, because that comes with consequences. Right? Because you go, “Well, I’m not really doing this stuff,” then they look on you and go, “Oh, you’re one of them,” but they’re one of them too because they ain’t doing it either. And then that just creates a whole problem in church. And everybody’s fake and everybody’s doing this stuff. And guess what? The world sees that. Because religion doesn’t work.
Jesus came to give us life. He didn’t say, “I’m a way. I’m a truth. I’m a life.”
He said, “I am the way, I am the truth and I am the life.”
John 14:6. Let this resonate in your heart. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing. It is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. It’s a gift of God. See, when you get religion, it just kills you. When you get Jesus, it gives you life. I can just tell you, you may say, “Man, you’re passionate about this. I can sense it.”
Yeah. I am. Because, at 17 years old, in Tampa, Florida, in my mom’s Honda Accord, I pulled over and got in the back of the car, got on my knees as cars are going by on Dale Mabry Highway, I put my elbows on the back of that bumper, and I said, “God, I need You in my life. Will You please forgive me?”
That changed everything. And do you know what? The next 30 years haven’t been how great I’ve been or how faithful I’ve been. It’s been how faithful God was to His son that day, at 17 years old, and how He has continued to work in my life. Because it’s not what I have done, it’s what Jesus has done for me that made the difference.
Don’t live another day in religion. Let it go. Let it go. Embrace Jesus. Jesus is your life.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for the wonderful people here at Grace. I thank You for what You’re doing here in our midst. I thank You, Lord, for the countless lives that have been changed as a result, Lord, of Your good news. Lord, it’s such good news. It’s good news because there’s nothing we can do to earn it. All we have to do is walk across the bridge.
Lord, I pray, today, that if anybody’s in here struggling with religion, struggling with acceptance, struggling with their relationship with You, Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name that You would let some dry bones live. Lord, that You would start to attach together an army of passionate people who want to talk about Jesus. Not about religion, not about issues, but about Jesus. Lord, You are the one that can change our lives. You have forever put a wrecking ball to religion. You brought us a relationship. Lord, we want to live in that relationship, Lord. We don’t want to run around telling everybody their sins. We want to look internally, Lord, and say, “Deal with me. Help me to become all that You want me to be. Help me to be a light for You in everything that I do.”
And help this church be a light for You in everything that we do. So, Lord, I pray that as we walk out of here today, that You would watch over us and protect us, that You would lead and guide us, and that You would continue, Lord, to make us into the church that You’ve called us to be, which is to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, help us reflect Jesus in everything that we do, for Your glory and for Your honor.
Lord, we love You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.
Everybody throughout their lives deals with a thing. It’s there. You can’t always see it, but you can feel it. It never really goes away. You can try to put it on the top shelf, hide it under the bed, throw it in the back of the closet, and yet this thing never seems to disappear. Why is it so hard to move on? Why does it feel like an impossible mountain to climb? Are we destined to be stuck in these recurring nightmares forever? Let’s unpack this together. Let’s find a way forward. What’s your thing?
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re glad to have everybody. We’re in the middle of a series called “The Thing.” One of the things I like to do is to make sure that we sort of recap and summarize what we’ve been doing, because if you’re new or maybe you’ve missed a few weeks or whatever it may be, it’s always good to remember what we’re doing.
So, in this particular series, what I’m trying to do, and do the best that I can do here, is to help us all in living out the life that God wants us to live. I am just convinced, as a pastor, the more I read Scripture, the more I really feel like God wants us to live lives that are influential, that shine like lights, the people see what’s going on in our lives and want to know what’s going on and ultimately want to know who Jesus is, the Jesus that lives within you and me. One of the things I’ve found as a pastor, just in talking with people and being involved in small groups and just being a Christian for the years that I’ve been a Christian, is so many people have an area in their life — it’s this one thing, or maybe a couple of things — that just seems to keep tripping them up over and over and over again.
Sometimes, if they’re vulnerable, they’ll share it. But, then, what happens is, “How do I overcome this thing?”
Basically, what I’ve been trying to teach in this series, is oftentimes the thing that we’re focused on, whatever that is, whatever that thing is that’s driving us nuts, many times is a symptom of a cause. If we’re focusing on the symptom, we might not be getting any better at all because we’re not focusing on the cause. So, the big idea was this: The thing that we think is the thing is usually not the thing.
In other words, we’re shooting at things in our lives that are symptomatic of a root cause. In other words, we’re focused on fruits and not the root. And I believe, with all of my heart, in understanding that dynamic and seeing how often in Scripture that is taught, where there’s something behind something that we need to deal with, that’s one of the great ways you and me can get victory. Because, if we’re not dealing with what we need to deal with, we’re not going to get any better.
So, last week, I talked about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11 about discerning the body. He says, “Here’s the symptoms: Many are weak, many are ill, some have died, but that’s not the thing. The thing is not discerning the body.”
The week before, we talked about unforgiveness, and we talked about how the symptoms of unforgiveness are huge in our lives and have so many consequences. But, the thing that needs to be dealt with are not the symptoms, but that root cause of unforgiveness.
This week, we’re going to deal with something that I believe every single one of us will go, “Man, amen. That is definitely a thing behind the thing.”
But, before I do that, I want to get your attention. I want to get your buy-in here. I want to talk to you a little bit about the law of the jar. I felt, also, this is a great opportunity for me to talk about God’s team, the UK Wildcats. No. But, I want you to assume that this is a jar. There’s no water in this jar, but I want you to assume with me that there is water in this jar and I put the top on, and now I’m going to start shaking this jar. Okay? As I shake this, eventually water starts flowing out and going on the floor and baptizing the front row and all of those good things as I do this.
Then, if I were to say, “Okay. Now what I want to do is I want to ask you why did the jar leak?”
Well, many of you would say, “Well, it’s pretty easy. You were shaking the jar. If you wouldn’t have been shaking the jar, then the water wouldn’t have come out.”
Many of you would say that’s the answer. Some of you would say, “No. The answer is gravity. You’re right that you shaking it did, but what really created that problem — because, if you were in space, the water wouldn’t have gone down. It would’ve just sort of gone out into the air and just sort of floated. So, gravity is the reason why it’s leaking all over the place.”
Some of you would say, “No. The lid was loose. That’s the problem.”
If I were to then say, “Okay. Separate off into your different groups,” and you separate off into your different groups, some of you would be more passionate about it than others. But, here’s the reality of the law of this jar: The reason this would have leaked, the reason the jar leaked, is because there was water inside. See, if there was no water inside, nothing would’ve happened. It wouldn’t make a difference how much I shook it. It wouldn’t make a difference if the lid was off. It wouldn’t make a difference about gravity. Nothing. The reason this jar was able to leak was because there was water inside.
What I would like to suggest to you and I is that what is on the inside of you and me will leak to the outside of you and me. Do you know what we’re dealing with? Our attitudes. And let me just tell you right now: I got to preach this two times. This is the third time. Some of you all noticed that they decided, for whatever reason, to start doing some pressure washing on half of our parking lot this morning. So, I got to go ahead and experience the attitude sermon that I’d been preaching by trying to have a positive attitude. I’m doing the best I can.
You know? Our attitudes matter. In fact, I’ve said this before, and some of you who have heard this are going to laugh again, some of you who haven’t heard it are going to laugh even harder, but this shows you how powerful our attitudes are. They took this young boy, who was eight years old, and everything that came out of his mouth was negative. I mean, he was just always negative. And they put him into this room where they had Xbox, PlayStation, 20 different ice creams, 19 different cookies, and 5 different candy bars. And he walked in and he said, “There’s not this game, there’s not this ice cream, there’s not this cookie, and there’s not this candy bar.”
They’re like, “Man, how could someone be so negative on everything?”
Then they took this other eight-year-old boy, who was always positive, and they put him in an 8x8 room, and it was filled with 2.5 feet of horse manure. He jumped up in the air, head first, and started swimming in the room. They reached in, grabbed him and picked him up. They said, “Son, what is the matter with you?”
He said, “Man, there’s got to be a pony in there somewhere.”
You know? So, it’s the truth. It’s the absolute truth. Our attitudes matter. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to look a little bit at how our attitudes affect us. We’re going to look at a passage of Scripture. We’re going to chew on a few things from that passage of Scripture. And then, what we’re going to do is I’m going to give you three things at the very end that I think will make a tremendous impact on your life and those watching via the mobile app and the internet. It will make an absolute difference in your life and you’ll walk out of here with a completely different attitude than when you came in.
So, let me just summarize here. When attitude is the thing behind the thing — in this particular attitude, we’re going to say it’s a misaligned attitude or a bad attitude — it can create stress in our life, it can create depression in our life, it can create a critical spirit in our life and it can create the inability to cope in life. Bad attitudes are hugely affective in our lives, as are good attitudes. So, oftentimes, the things we’re dealing with, the thing is not the thing. The thing is this. It’s our attitude. In fact, bad attitudes and misaligned attitudes has destroyed more families, more marriages, more witnesses to the Lord and more relationships than just about anything else. So, it’s huge that we figure out how to handle our attitude.
So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to take a passage of Scripture that many of you all are familiar with. It’s one of the great attitude passages of Scripture in all the Bible. It comes out of Philippians 4. If you remember, the Philippian church was founded when Paul had been put in prison after he had been beaten with rods. He got put in the Philippians prison, and he started singing in the midnight hour. Paul and Silas are singing and they’re praising God and worshiping God. And everybody in the prison cells are like, “What’s going on? These people are rejoicing, and they just got beaten with rods?”
And, all of a sudden, all the prison doors open, and they don’t even run. They don’t even leave. They’re like, “Wow.”
Well, the Philippians Jailer runs in. He’s getting ready to kill himself because he’s figured some of them have left, and he knows if they’ve left then the Romans will kill him. And Paul’s like, “Dude, they’re all here.”
He’s like, “Well, tell me what I’ve got to do, then, to get in on this.”
And he says, “Hey, you can believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you’ll be saved in your household.”
What’s beautiful is the Philippian church is birthed with prisoners in a prison ward. That’s the start of the Philippian church. So, when Paul writes back to them and he starts talking about rejoicing and loving God, they know first-hand that they saw that in Paul’s life. And when Paul writes them, he’s in prison again. And he writes such a positive letter even though he’s in prison. He’s like, “Hey, man. What God started in you...” — you can read it in Philippians 1:6 — “...He’s going to continue until the day that Jesus comes back. It doesn’t make a difference whether I live or die. Man, I’m going to glorify God, because for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
He’s having the same attitude in Philippians 2 that Jesus had. I mean, this is a positive book. So, what we’re going to do is look at Philippians 4, but I’m going to read out of a different translation. I normally read out of the English Standard Version. Sometimes I use the New American Standard Version. But, I’m going to read out of what I call the “Renegade Translation” today. It’s called “The Message.” It’s by Eugene Peterson. Sometimes, Eugene Peterson, I read it and I’m like, “I don’t know, Eugene. I think you took a lot of liberties there, brother, on that particular one. But, other times I look at it and go, “Man, I think you nailed it.”
I think this one he nails. I’m so excited about reading you this passage of Scripture, I believe I could read this passage of Scripture and we could go home. In fact, we may need to so the next group can park. But, the reality is that it’s such a beautiful Scripture. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to stop and we’re going to chew on a couple of those things that we read out of that passage of Scripture. And then what we’re going to do is we’re going to leave with three things that I think will absolutely change your life and your attitude forever.
So, let’s get to work here. In Philippians 4:4, Paul says, “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!”
Now, many of you all know your Bibles and you know Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord; and again, I say, rejoice.”
Well, here’s what Eugene has written: “Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him!”
I mean, just celebrate God for the things He’s done for you and me. Just enjoy God for the stuff. The fact that we’ve been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. The fact that we’ve been called His sons and daughters. The fact that our sins have been cast as far as the east is to the west. The fact that we can read the end of the book and know that He wins, and because He wins, so do we. Celebrate God all day, every day. Revel in him. Now, this is great:
“Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”
Can you imagine if everybody in the world truly worked with each other as human beings, and gave them dignity and worth, how much a better place we would have? Right? Can you imagine if just Christians were to do that stuff? He doesn’t say that you’re on their side for positions and things they say. He says that you’re on their side as human beings, that you love them and support them.
See, let me tell you something. I’m going to tell you trick here. This is an absolute trick. You cannot celebrate God, you can’t put God first, and not love others. It doesn’t work that way. This is the way it works: If you love God, you love others. He says, “Celebrate God.”
Okay. We’re going to learn here. This is a hand clap. Come on. I sometimes preach better than you all let on. So, anyway, I’ll start “amening” myself.
Anyway, he says, “Listen: Celebrate God, love God, revel in Him, and make it as clear to everyone you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them, that you love them.”
And here’s why. He says, “Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!”
Man, Jesus could come back. He could show up. Man, we’re going to love God. We’re going to treat others like we’re on their side, and we’re going to help them to see that, man, Jesus could arrive at any moment. He could show up at any moment.
And he says, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.”
You don’t have to raise your hands, but oftentimes, instead of praying, we worry. He says, “Don’t fret or worry. Guys, listen: Celebrate God. Love God. Revel in Him. Love others. If you’ve got any concerns or any worries about something, don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.”
And listen to how beautiful this is. This is just beautiful. Listen to what he says here: “Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.”
Man, that’s beautiful. I mean, think about that. He’s saying, “Listen: Stop for a moment here and let your petitions and your praises, because you’re celebrating God, let it shape those worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.”
“Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”
Isn’t that great? Isn’t that just a beautiful word? I mean, who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t want that in their life? He’s like, “Listen: Celebrate God. Love others. Take whatever concerns you have and give them to God. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness will come and settle you down.”
He says, “It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
That’s true, isn’t it? Absolutely true. Let’s continue. This is good stuff here.
“Summing it all up,” — going back, guys. He’s telling a story.
“Celebrate God. Love God. Revel in Him all day. Pour into others. You’re on their side. You’re working with them, because Jesus could show up at any time. You’re telling them the Master could show up. Any problems that you’ve got or any concerns that you’ve got, take it to God. Do those things and God will settle you down. So, what I want to do now is I want to sum it all up here. I want to make sure we’re all on the same page.
He says, “I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable,” — because, see, what goes in the jar is going to come out of the jar.
He’s like, “Guys, you want to celebrate God, right? You want to revel in Him, right? You want to take your prayers to God. You want that sense of wholeness? I’m going to sum it up for you, guys. Make sure, with your attitudes, with your minds, that what you’re doing is you are filling your minds and meditating on things that are true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious.
“The best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
So, let’s think about that for a minute. How often are our minds filled with so much junk in the world today? You can’t read anything on the internet or watch anything on the news that’s not half negative all the time. If we’re filling our minds with that garbage, what’s going to leak out is that garbage. So, when we’re filling our minds with the things that are true, noble, reputable — the things that are the best, not the worst; the things that are beautiful, not ugly; the things to praise, not things to curse, what happens is Paul says, “I’m going to sum all of this up for you. You start doing those things and things are going to change in your life.”
He says, “Put into practice what you learned from me.”
“You saw me. You saw my life. You saw that even when I got beat, I still worshipped God. You saw that no matter what was going on, I had a positive attitude.”
He says, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Isn’t that great? That’s a beautiful passage of Scripture. Now, here’s what I want to do. I want to take a moment here and I want to chew on a few quick things here that I see in this passage. I’m going to do something that we don’t normally do. I’m going to ask you, if you’re watching via the internet and mobile app, to do this, too. I’m asking everybody in here, if you would, to just pause for a minute. I want to say a prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father, I believe with all of my heart that our attitudes are so important. Lord, I’m asking, right now, for Your glory and for Your honor, that we would resist the temptation to put up a wall and not to want to listen to this, that we would resist the temptation to want to try to listen to this sermon for our spouse rather than us, that we would tear down the resistance that we have to try to maybe listen to this for a friend or a son. Lord, let us listen to this message for us. Lord, we truly need to have positive attitudes, because it makes a huge difference in our lives and in the people that we love and the people that we know and the people that we meet.
So, Lord, I’m asking, in Jesus’ name, for Your glory, that You would tear down all the walls that we might put up, all the defenses that we might put up, and let us just simply hear these things to chew on for Your glory and for Your honor, so that we’ll leave differently than when we came in. In the name of Jesus, we pray, and everybody said, “Amen.”
If you take notes, here’s the first one: Our attitudes are ours to own. You and I own our attitudes. I want you to think about that for a minute, because so many of us don’t want to own our attitude. So many of us don’t want to own the things that we think about and the things that we do. We own our attitudes. Bottom line. We own them. Here’s what Paul says:
“Summing it up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable.”
In other words, “Guys, girls, Church at Philippi, Grace Community Church, here’s what you need to do: Fill your minds and meditate on these things, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”
In other words, you and I have the ability to choose our attitude. We choose what we put into our lives. We choose what we talk about. We choose what we say. And here’s the greatest truth you can learn about an attitude: God did not give us control of our circumstances. You and I didn’t have any control over where we were born, have control over our parents. You know we can’t control the world. You know we can’t even control our family half the time. I’ve got six kids. I can’t control them at all. I can put one of them in time out and go to try to find them and they’re gone and they’re in the neighbor’s yard. It’s like, “What happened to that?”
It’s like they’ve got Star Trek transporter beams in their room.
“Grace, could you beam me over to the neighbor’s yard?”
Seriously. We can’t. We want to control. And, then thing is, do you know where most of our worry, anxiety and negativity comes from? Trying to control our circumstances, because we can’t. But, here’s what we do have control over: He gave us the ability to choose how we respond to them. You and I get to choose how we respond. Now, I’ve got something here that everybody has loved up to this point, and I think it makes the greatest example here of what I mean by having a positive attitude and choosing it.
This is called the “Dog’s Diary.” Enjoy this, because you’ll smile.
“8 a.m. Dog food! My favorite thing! 9:30 a.m. A car ride! My favorite thing! 9:40 a.m. A walk in the park! My favorite thing! 10:30 a.m. I got petted! It’s my favorite thing! 12 p.m. Milk bones! My favorite thing. 1 p.m. I played in the yard! My favorite thing! 3 p.m. I wagged my tail! My favorite thing! 5 p.m. Dinner! My favorite thing! 8 p.m. Wow! I got to watch TV with the humans! My favorite thing! 11 p.m. Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!”
See, all of you all are smiling. You understand attitudes make a difference. Let me read you the cat’s diary.
“Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to torment me with bizarre, little, dangling objects. They dine on good food while the other inmates and I are fed some sort of dry nuggets. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomited on the carpet. Today, I decapitated a mouse and dropped his headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since this clearly demonstrates my capabilities. Today, I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I’m going to do this again tomorrow at the top of the stairs. I’m convinced that the other prisoners around here are flunkies and snitches. The dog? He gets special privileges. He’s regularly released, and he seems to be more than willing to return. He’s obviously delusional. The bird is an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I’m certain he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him because he’s in an elevated cell, so he’s safe — for now.”
See the difference? See? Yep. Are you going to be a dog or are you going to be a cat? Come on, now. You know? Some of you are like, “I like cats.”
I’m not ripping on animals. I’m just making a point here. Do y’all remember the scenes where the guys would be up on the skyscrapers on the iron bar and they’d be looking down over the skyline? They’d all be sitting there with their legs dangling and they had their lunchboxes out and their hard hats on? You know? Well, one day, they were all out there and the guy sort of in the middle was sitting there. He opens up his lunch pail and he goes, “Oh, man! A bologna sandwich. I hate bologna sandwiches. I hate them. Four days in a row, a bologna sandwich. I hate bologna sandwiches.”
Well, his friend was next to him. He’s like, “Man, I️ didn’t know you hated bologna sandwiches.”
He said, “I hate them! I hate bologna sandwiches.”
He goes, “Well, how about tonight, when you’re at home, why don’t you suggest to your wife...”
He’s like, “Leave my wife out of this! I pack my own lunches.”
Right? Get ready here. Most of the bologna in our lives, we packed. And all God’s people said, “Amen,” right? So, we own our attitudes. Listen to what John Maxwell says:
“Our attitude is the librarian of our past, the speaker of our present, and the prophet of our future.”
We own our attitudes. Are we going to try to disown them or are we going to own them? We own our attitude. Let me tell you another thing to chew on. This is really something to think about. One of the greatest attitude predictors is teachability. See, the more you are rigid in what you think and believe, the more likely you’re going to be angry and nasty toward someone who sees it differently than you. Are we teachable? Paul thought his group was teachable. He said, “Put into practice what you learned from me.”
See, he realizes that church is teachable. He says, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”
Are you teachable? You know, one of the things I do is teach systematic theology. That’s one of the more rigorous courses in a biblical education. One of the things that I do at the beginning of class is I say, “Class, I want you to understand something. Probably up to a third of what I believe is wrong, but the problem is I don’t know what that third is or I would change it.”
And they’re like, “Why?”
Because I’ve lived life long enough to know that the more rigid I get on something, the more somebody comes along and blows that thing away, almost all the time. So, are we teachable? When God’s Word says something to us, will we put it into action or do we try to reframe it the way we want it to be? Are we teachable?
Here’s the big takeaway on this one here: Who do you have in your life that can get all up in your business and be honest with you about your attitude? Who do you have? Are you teachable? Can you learn? Can someone say something to you and speak into your life and talk about your attitude? Because teachability is one of the greatest predictors of a good or bad attitude. Someone who’s not teachable — just think about it. Think about your kids when they’re growing up. The ones that you can’t tell anything to do, they won’t listen to anything that you say, they’re the ones that cry all the time and are always upset and everything’s an injustice. The ones that are eager to learn and eager to become better in life and to learn skills and to help me do this and show me how to do this, they’re the ones that have the most positive attitude.
So, think about it here: Teachability is a huge predictor of our attitude. Are we teachable?
Number three: Godly attitudes work themselves outwardly into others. The converse is true. Bad attitudes lead themselves outwardly into others. But we’re talking about attitude here. We’re trying to be positive. So, I want to focus on this here: Godly attitudes work themselves outwardly into others.
Here’s what happens: Celebrate God. Celebrate God. Rejoice in the Lord. Rejoice in the Lord. And what happens is you make it as clear as you can to all that you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Can I give you a great biblical truth? I want us all to realize this. Bad attitudes lead to selfishness. That’s where they always lead.
“Oh, I can’t believe they did that. I can’t believe that’s happening to me. I can’t believe this went on. I can’t believe you did that. This is the way I feel.”
It always leads back to you. A bad attitude will never solve any problem in the world, because you and I can’t solve the problems in the world by being selfish. But positive attitudes, what they do is they add to others. When you’re positive, it adds to your spouse, it adds to your kids, it adds to the people at work. When you’re positive, you’re pouring into others. You can’t help it. That’s just what positive attitudes do.
And here’s the secret: When you and I are positive and pouring into others, that’s when God does the work in our life that we’re looking for. See, that’s what Jesus is always saying. Love God. Love others. We go, “Well, I’ve got to get myself...”
No. Love God. Love others. He goes, “All these things you’re looking for? Put me first and my kingdom and my righteousness first, and all the things that you’re looking for will be added to you.”
The reality is godly attitudes flow into other people. Think about this for a second. Does anybody really like being around people with a negativity attitude? Not long. Unless they’re in misery with you. Like, when you’re negative and they’re negative with you, then it’s great. You can form a small group and meet every week, you know? It’s like, “Hey, we’re the Negative Nancies. We meet every Tuesday night. Or every Friday night.”
Whatever. We see it all the time. But, see, bad attitudes will lead to selfishness. That’s just where they go. There’s just no way around it. A positive attitude adds to others. People that smile and are happy, you want to be around them. Why? Because it adds to your life. And guess what happens? When it adds to your life, you let them know. You go, “Man, thanks for being so cool. Thanks for being so nice.”
And guess what happens? Because you are flowing into them, all of a sudden people are speaking stuff into you and it’s changing your life because positive attitudes add to others. And when you add to others, God blesses you and me. That’s the way it works. That’s the way He does it. Nothing — and I’m not trying to be negative here, I’m just trying to be honest. Nothing destroys our witness in the Lord quite like our attitudes.
We’re supposed to shine like lights. We’re supposed to be people that people look at and want what we have. You know, I’ve asked, as a pastor — and I’m sure it’s not always the case. But, I’ve asked several places that I’ve gone, “When do you get the best and worst tips?”
Almost invariably, they say, “The worst tips are usually people from church on Sunday afternoon.”
And it’s like, “Seriously? Man, we’ve got to get better than that.”
Listen: Don’t give them a track. Give them a tip. Amen? I mean, if you want to give them a track, that’s fine. Make sure you give them some money. I mean, goodness gracious. We’ve got to have a better attitude about things. And that’s what Paul is saying. He’s like, “Summing it up, guys. This is what you need to be doing. Add these things in.”
Because the one thing you and I can control is our attitude. We have absolute control over it. You don’t believe that at all? Remember: The pizza man, when you’re fighting with your wife and they show up, you’re like, “Hi! How are you?”
So, you can change that attitude. I don’t care how bad off you are. Somebody knocks on your door and goes, “Aunt Mable just left you three million dollars,” you’d be like, “Wow!”
It doesn’t matter how bad your fight is, because, see, you can control your attitude. You can control those things.
Fourth: Maybe that fulfillment we are seeking in life is on the other side of a prayer, gratitude and attitude adjustment. All of us are looking for fulfillment in life. All of us are looking to live out a godly life. All of us are looking for the blessings of the Lord and the abundant life. Maybe that’s on the other side of a prayer, gratitude and attitude adjustment. That’s why I call that, because I think Paul says, “We’ve got to learn to pray.”
You move prayer out, and that doesn’t work. You’ve got to have a gratitude. You’ve got to thank God for the things that He’s given you. And then attitude, which means we start putting in the things that are positive rather than the things that are negative. And, all of a sudden, we get an adjustment in our lives and things change. Maybe that fulfillment we’re looking for is on the other side of that.
So, here’s what I want to do in conclusion. I want to give you three things that I feel you can walk out of here, absolutely, today, and change your life forever with your attitude — if you decide that you want to do them. If you decide you don’t want to do them, that’s fine with you. But, you get to choose these things. God gave you a choice and you can choose.
The first thing I would tell you is to celebrate God. Learn to celebrate God in life. Learn to thank God for all the things that we have.
“God, I️ thank You that we get to meet in a church with air conditioning. There’s so many Christians — millions — that don’t even have a place to meet. God, we are so fortunate. We are so blessed. God, we just celebrate You. God, forget all the things that I’ve got. Let’s just talk about You for a second. You removed me from the kingdom of darkness. You took me from someone who was in sin, was red as crimson, and, Lord, You made me white as snow. Lord, I was not a son or daughter and now I’m a son or daughter. Lord, You have moved in my life. You put Your Holy Spirit in me. You’ve done all of these great things, Lord. I just want to celebrate You for the God that You are, and thank You for all of the great things that You do.”
Rather than flipping on TV and watching something negative, turn on a praise song, open up the Bible, call somebody and say, “Hey, man. Let’s talk about how good God is.”
You start celebrating God in your life and I’m telling you something, your attitude will change. Because what happens is you start to do the “I️ get to” rather than the “I have to.”
“Oh, God. I have to love this wife that You’ve given to me. Lord, I have to love these kids.”
No, no, no, no. When you start celebrating God, what happens is you say, “God, thank You so much I get to love this person that You put in my life. Lord, I get to pour into these kids that You’ve given to me. Lord, I get to go to work here when people don’t even have a job. Lord, even though I may be working around some people that have some challenges, Lord, I get to be a light there at work. Lord, I get to eat on a regular basis when people all around the world are starving to death. Lord, I get to do the things that I do. I get to come to church. I even have four different services that I can come to. Lord, I get to do all of these things.”
And, all of a sudden, things change. You become infectious. What happens is you’re focusing on Him, not the circumstances. I could go on and on and on and on and on about focusing on Jesus or focusing on stuff. The bottom line is when Peter looked at Jesus and he didn’t look at the waves and the wind, he walked on water. When he decided to look at the waves and the wind, he sunk.
Celebrate God. Talk about how great God is. He’s a wonderful God. Start talking about God. Read some of the passages of Scripture. Read them out loud. They’ll get you happy. Change your life. Celebrate God. What we do is we don’t like to celebrate God. We like to celebrate all the problems. Celebrate God. Okay?
Second: Turn negativity into prayer. Listen: You’re going to have negativity in your life. I’m going to have negativity. There’s negativity everywhere. We’ve got to choose what we do with it. Typically, what we do with negativity is we go tell somebody about it. See, what we do is we talk to others, not God. I’d like to have you turn that around. Talk to God, not others. In other words, take the negativity and, rather than finding a group of people that you can go, “Ah, let me tell you all of these negative things that are going on,” — because most people like that negativity.
“Oh, yeah! I’ve got it, too!”
You know? I mean, have you ever noticed? I mean, I’ve got lower back pains. All I’ve got to do is find a group of people and go, “Man, my back hurts.”
“So does mine! It’s terrible!”
“Oh, yeah. I couldn’t get out of bed for a week.”
Next thing you know, everybody’s depressed and we’re all in counseling. You know? Talk to God. Take your petitions and your prayers and let it shape your worries into those prayers. I like what Joyce Meyer says. She goes, “Don’t get on the phone. Go to the throne.”
I like that. That’s good stuff. Talk to God, not others. I’ll tell you another one when you’re praying. Ask God to show us when negativity is actually coming from our life. Look: I’m 47. I’m beyond, at this point, what people think. I want you to like me, but I’m really pretty blunt at this point in my life. I can tell you and be vulnerable here: A lot of times, when I get frustrated at things, I’m frustrated because it’s something that’s going on in me.
You ever notice that you get hostile towards people when you’re driving when you run late? Did you know something? Your lack of planning did not constitute an emergency for them. Right? Follow me on that one? See, sometimes — y’all are getting it now. We’re an hour behind. We’re like, “Yeah! I️ got it now. Oh, yeah. That was me last Tuesday.”
Some of the people on staff go, “That’s why we don’t put a Grace bumper sticker on our car.”
You take your negativity, turn it into prayer, and let God start speaking to you. You’ll find He will do some things. And the last thing here is remember the Lord’s victory. It’s not our victory. It’s His victory. He’s already won. You know what? No matter what you’re going through, no matter how bad it is, He has promised you and me that He will resurrect us, and we will spend eternity with Him, which means we can’t lose. Which means we can fall down seven times, but He’ll pick us up seven times, because He’s already won. And, because He’s won and we’re on His team, we win, too.
It’s like watching a prerecorded game. You already know the result, but you watch it and you know where the result’s going. It’s a lot better to watch a close game when you already know your team won, right? Okay? Some of y’all are in close games. You won. Okay? You already won. And remember that: Walk in Him, not your circumstances. Walk in Him. Get ahold of Jesus. Walk in Him. And don’t allow anyone to rob you of His joy. Don’t let anybody take that from you, because it’s His victory.
I believe with all of my heart that if we put these things into place, this is what happens: Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. Let’s understand that one of the big things behind the thing is our attitude. Let’s be people that have a positive attitude and choose to exhibit that attitude for the glory of God.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for everybody here. Thank You for this church. Thank You for all the incredible things that are going on in this community because of Your people. Lord, I pray right now that all of us would leave out of here making a commitment that we’re going to own our attitude, we’re going to put in our mind and meditate on the things that are true, noble and reputable; the best, not the worst; the good, not the bad.
Help us, Lord, to walk out of here and forever realize that the thing that is behind many of our things is simply our attitude. Help us, Lord, to choose to have the attitude that You can give to us. Lord, we love You and thank You for that.
So, Lord, as we leave, we pray that You would continue to lead, guide and direct us; continue to help us be that church that You’ve called us to be, which is to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. And help us, Lord, to reflect Christ in our attitudes for Your glory and for Your honor. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. God bless everybody. Have a great day.
Everybody throughout their lives deals with a thing. It’s there. You can’t always see it, but you can feel it. It never really goes away. You can try to put it on the top shelf, hide it under the bed, throw it in the back of the closet, and yet this thing never seems to disappear. Why is it so hard to move on? Why does it feel like an impossible mountain to climb? Are we destined to be stuck in these recurring nightmares forever? Let’s unpack this together. Let’s find a way forward. What’s your thing?
Well, good morning to everybody, and also to those who watch via the mobile app, and the internet. Our family, we recently moved. And honestly you have to get an aircraft carrier to move our family when we move with all the kids and everything. But one of the things that you realize when you move is that Mindy and I both, and not every couple’s this way, but we really like to keep things clean. We both are members of the OCD Club. In fact, we have so much OCD we alphabetize it as CDO at our house. That’s just the way that it is.
And so, we clean. We mop. We do all the things that we do. And what’s interesting is is when you decide to move you realize that as clean as you think the house is, you realize that there’s like nine pacifiers under the refrigerator from the six kids before, you know? And you find that food that you knew your kids didn’t eat. The broccoli and Brussel sprouts, you find them behind the dresser in the dining room where they’ve thrown it back there, because you knew they didn’t eat it.
And can I say this? Moving is somewhere between Hades and Gehenna, isn’t it? Those are two Greek words for Hell. And I’m of the opinion that no good Christian ever asks their Christian friends to help them move. Can I get an amen on that one, right? That’s right. Good. I’m glad everybody’s in the Spirit this morning. Good.
Well, something interesting happened about two or three years ago. Mindy decided she wanted to do a makeover on our bedroom, and get some cream carpet. And I was like, “I don’t know. The cream carpet might get dirty.” So, we got the cream carpet, painted the wall a little bit, and did our thing. And honestly, thought the carpet help up really good. I was surprised. Until, we moved the bed.
And let me tell you something, moving the bed’s a little difficult. We’re not big people. So, moving things is tough. It was tough to get the bed out of the way. Okay, but then you remove the bed and there’s this really beautiful white square where the bed was. And we didn’t notice the deterioration of the carpet as it went. Because it’s just familiar. You get familiar, you know? It gradually gets a little bit more dirty, until you move the bed. And then we realize we’re going to have to replace all of the carpet.
So, I say all that to say that this weekend we’re going to move the bed. We’re going to take some things that maybe we’re not really… We don’t think about that much as we go through life. We’re familiar, and things erode a little bit, but we don’t really see it. And then, when we move the bed we’re like, “Whoa, man. This is really not the way it should be. We’re going to have to replace the carpet.”
And let me say, moving the bed can be difficult, because beds are heavy. Moving the bed can be a little alarming when you realize that it’s dirty. And it can be expensive when you’ve got to put carpet down. And so, we’re going to have to do a little bit of work. And I want to make sure everybody knows, those watching via the internet and mobile too, I’m in a really good mood. So, if you think that I’m giving you some hard medicine this morning, let it be the Scripture, not me. There’s not snarky-ness at all, but I think this is going to be something that all of us have a little bit of a moment when the bed gets moved. We go, “Whoa,” because Paul does that to the people he’s writing to when we look at this passage of Scripture.
But I think it we will really let this speak to us it’s going to make a big difference in our life.
So, we’ll get to that in just a minute. Let me do a real recap here of what we’re doing in the current series. We’re talking about the Thing, and the Thing is something that comes out of my heart after living a Christian life for many, many years. And basically, hearing just about every position that you could possibly hear. I mean, I teach systematic theology as a professor. So, you hear just about every theological concern, question, that you’d get. And all of the books that are written, and so on and so forth.
What I’ve found, as a pastor, is this. And it bothers me, because I don’t think it necessarily needs to be this way. I find that so many people, when they’re asked, and they’re honest and being vulnerable, say, “You know what. I try to live out the Christian life, and I really want to live out the Christian life, and I really want to serve God, but I find that there’s just a lot of areas in my life that never seem to get better. And I don’t know what to do.”
You know, it’s like I got this one area in my life, and it might be lust, it might be an addiction, it might be never being able to get your finances in order, it may be a continual fight you have with your spouse, it may be something with someone else. But there’s the areas that seem to keep tripping us up. And traditionally, there’s two answers that are given to people in church.
The first one is, you need to pray more, and read more, and get more involved in a small group, and all of those things. And I’m not against any of those things, but often times what they do, it’s like going to a fitness place. You’re working muscles, and you’re doing stuff, and there’s a lot of good that’s going on, but you have a lower back problem, and it’s not solving that lower back problem. So, no matter how much exercise you do, you’re not really dealing with the thing that’s bothering you.
So, many people go, “I don’t know what to do, because I’m reading more, praying more, and I’m still tripping over the same thing.”
Then, what happens is there’s another thing that happens in the church where somebody has this book they want to give you, or a DVD, or some secret thing, and it’s usually couched under the idea of if you could just understand grace, or just understand a little bit more how to rest in Christ a little bit more, things like that, then all of your problems will go away.
What that does for us is it gives us the truth that God loves us, and it gives us a little bit of, “Okay, I don’t have to measure up. I don’t have to just always do things that are right.” And so, there’s a good positive thing there, but it still doesn’t solve the problem that we still are tripping up. Because even those who tell you those things, they still have problems in their life that they’re tripping up on on a regular basis.
And so, what we do is we sit, sort of paralyzed, and then what we do is the typical church thing. We don’t want to tell anybody we’re struggling. We don’t want to tell anybody that we got these issues in our lives. And so, we smile real big, whatever camp that we’re in, and we just go, “Well, I guess that’s the way it should be.”
And, as a pastor, I don’t want to stay in that ugly position of neither one of these things work. There’s got to be a better way. the Bible’s very clear that we can live moral and ethical lives. The Bible’s very clear that we ought to be able to love people the way Christ wants us to love. The Bible’s very clear that we can live this thing out. And yet so often people go, “It’s not happening.” And no matter what secret little thing you learn, or how much more you try, it seems like we still keep tripping up on the same old things over and over again.
And so, as a pastor, I want to equip you. I want to equip to be able to live out the life that God has called you to live. And I believe God wants you to live an abundant life. I do believe Jesus died and rose from the grave so that we could be forgiven. But I also believe He died and rose from the grave so that we could live holy and righteous lives in this present world, shining His light to the world that we live in.
Amen? Do you believe that?
Okay, so here’s the big idea that I’m trying to proffer up as your pastor about why we may be struggling with these areas, and why the answers that we’re getting aren’t necessarily helping us out. And here’s the big idea of the series. It’s that the Thing that we think is the Thing is usually the Thing.
And what I mean by that is this, we’re dealing with symptoms. We’re not dealing with the cause. And so, we can have a symptom, and we can say read this book, do this here. We can say pray more, or read more, or do all this stuff. We can anoint you with oil. We do all of these things, but if we’re treating a symptom, we’re not going to ever get better. Because the symptom is not the problem. It’s the cause that’s the problem.
You know, people who maybe have a lust problem. It might not be lust. It might be loneliness that’s the issue behind that driver. And you can pray about lust. You can seek God about lust, but until you deal with that root cause you’re not going to get any better. And so, your theological persuasion, or how hard you try, might not ever get you any better because the Thing that you think is the Thing, the Thing that you’re focused on, the Thing that you’re giving your energy to, the Thing that you’re praying against, the Thing that you’re reading Scripture about might not even be the thing that’s really driving all of this anyway. It might just be a symptom of a cause, and until we can get to what the cause is we’re going to continue to live with the symptoms no matter how we’re approaching this Jesus thing.
So, last week we talked about unforgiveness. And I think most of us were sort of shocked with how many symptoms unforgiveness shows in our lives. I mean, even to the point of 61 percent of people that had cancer have areas of unforgiveness. And look, if you’ve had cancer or whatever, I’m not trying to put that guilt on you or anything like that. I’m just saying doctors have seen that, man, this unforgiveness really shows itself in many areas of our lives.
And so, that’s a root cause, and we need to deal with unforgiveness and maybe some of the symptoms go away.
Okay, the other thing we’re going to deal with today might be just as problematic, but it’s something that we don’t think about that often. It’s like the carpet. You know, we just sort of go through life, and we don’t really think about these things until somebody moves the bed. And all of a sudden, we go, “Wow, there’s really an issue there.”
And Paul talks to a church in Corinth about this issue, and he deals with this issue in something that’s very familiar to all of us. Communion. He deals with this issue that’s the thing behind the thing. And he actually says that, hey, this thing leads to these symptoms in your life. But it’s going to take a little work, because we’re not familiar with these terms. We might not even be familiar with this passage. And so, we’re going to have to do a little bit of work to work through some Biblical stuff to get to the end today, where we do some take-homes and we do some real practical stuff on how we can address this issue.
So, here is a Thing that is behind the Thing that Paul says has massive amounts of symptoms in our lives. And it’s “Not properly discerning the body.” And we’re going to look at this. If you’re thinking right now, “I’m not quite sure what that is,” That’s okay. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to work through a passage of Scripture to see what Paul has to say about it, and then we’re going to jump forward to 2017 and we’re going to say what would it look like for you and me to properly discern the body right now, today.
But look at what Paul says. He says, “When we don’t properly discern the body, guess what some of the symptoms are? Weakness.”
And you don’t have to raise your hand. I’ll be the sacrificial lamb for the service. There’s areas in my life where I would like to be stronger in, and sometimes I am weak in.
Last night would be a great example. I ate a whole frozen pizza before I went to bed. That’s called gluttony, so I confess my wins before everybody. Pray for your pastor, okay? I don’t know why I did that, and I woke up this morning going, “Ah man, I should have never done that.”
Anyway, so sometimes we’re weak. Now, all weakness does not result back to this, but Paul says that some of our weaknesses are because of this.
He also says some of our illnesses are because of this. He also says that people have died because of this. He also says that church divisions come because of this. So, it’s like, wow. I mean, I could be weak and praying for weakness. I could be struggling in this area in my life. I could be giving into this temptation on a regular basis. And what you’re saying is it could really be because of this. Yes.
This is the whole premise behind this series. I want to see you walk in victory, and it’s not learning a theological truth. And it’s not trying more. It really is simply sometimes we’re not focused on the things that are creating the problems. We’re focused on the symptoms. And if we can deal with the real causes I believe that God has given you and me His power, and His Spirit within us, because the Holy Spirit of God lives within us. And I believe we can live out practical Christian lives because of the power that lives within you and me. But we’re not going to live out those practical Christian lives if we’re trying to address the symptoms and not the causes.
So, let’s look at what this means. Let’s unpack this. And to do that I need to give you a little bit of background here. Paul writes to the church at Corinth. The church at Corinth is an interesting church. I don’t have a lot of time to develop this, but one of the major issues the church at Corinth had was they were divided, massively divided.
Some people liked Paul. Some people liked Apollos. Some people liked Peter. Some people were more spiritual, like, “I don’t like anybody. I just love Jesus,” and all that. And they were all divided. And everybody had their little deal going on.
And so, Paul has to write to this church that’s divided, and he has to do the thing that pastors do, which is to do what we call in the scholarly world the “yes, but” approach to arguing. He takes two camps, and he looks at one camp and he says, “Hey, I know you guys think that it’s okay to eat food sacrificed to idols. And you’re correct, because there really are no demons in those things. And they really are not Satan burgers, and Beelzebub pizzas, and all those great things, and all this good stuff.” He says, “You’re right, but have you considered this as well.”
He turns to the other ones, and goes, “I understand that you don’t think eating is there, and you’re trying to be holy. I understand that. You’re commendable, but have you thought about this.” He says, “I know some of you all think marriage is like this, and I understand that. That’s great, but let me tell you this. I know some of you all think that you shouldn’t be getting married, and I understand you’re trying to be holy and serve God, but have you thought about this.”
And so, he does a lot of those things throughout this book, trying to bring a church that’s divided together. Until he gets to chapter 11, and in chapter 11 verse 17, where we’re going to pick up, this is what he says, “In the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it’s not for the better but for the worse.”
It’s like, what? Can you imagine if Paul wrote us a letter and said, “Hey, all the four service that you all do, it’s not for the better. It’s for the worse.” It’d be like, wow, that’s like a really serious indictment there. He’s saying, “Look, I know in the other instructions I’ve given you I’ve been able to commend you and give you a yes and then a but, but on this one here I can’t really say anything positive. Because when you guys come together as a church for the thing that you’re doing it’s really not for the better. It’s for the worse.”
He says, “For in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you.”
That there’s factions among. That you guys aren’t coming together to celebrate Jesus. You’re coming together to put forth your positions, and your thoughts, and the way you think things should go, and who you like better than others. And that’s not the way Jesus is supposed to be at all. We’re supposed to be unified around Jesus, not around all these different things that you guys are coalescing around.
He says, the bottom line, when you come together as a church, he goes, I hear that there are divisions among you. And then he says, “And I believe that in part…”
This is sarcasm. He believes it in full. He doesn’t believe it in part. He believes it in full. And Paul, and a lot of times people when they read the book of Corinthians they think Paul’s pretty tough, man. He’s a snarky dude. No. No. No. Paul is writing in a way that we call rhetoric. And Paul rhetoric that he uses is the rhetoric that they used in Corinth as sophists and philosophers would write. He’s simply using the way that they spoke to speak to them.
Much like when you go to Kentucky, and you say, “How y’all doing?” They understand what that means, because that’s the vernacular. If you go up and say, “What’s up, dude?” They’re like, “Come again?”
They understand. There’s a certain way people understand words. Paul’s using a word, and here’s what he says, “I believe it in part…” — Sarcasm. He says, — “For there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.”
This is great. What he’s saying is, “Well, since you guys are divided so much, you must not be Christians, because Christians don’t divide like that. And so, they don’t divide like that, so that the people who are Christians who are not divided can actually be shown that they are really Christians.
He doesn’t think that they’re not Christians. This is just biting irony. He’s making a point to them. He’s like, “Seriously, guys. When you guys are coming together it’s not for the better. It’s for the worse. And it’s a big mess right now, because you guys are all factioned out, and all separated out, and all siloed off, and doing the things that you’re doing.” He goes, “When you come together, it’s not the Lord’s supper that you eat.”
Now, we know what he’s talking about. When they come together to the table of the Lord, he’s saying, when you guys come together for this it’s for the worse. Because you’re not understanding when you come to the table what the table really represents. He takes something familiar, and then he moves the bed on them to say, hey, listen. Here’s what I’m really talking about.
He goes, “When you come together, it’s not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” — He says, — “For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.”
You go, wow, so what was going on there? Well, you have to back up. This is written probably around 54 A.D., so this is thousands of years removed from where we are today. And here’s what was going on, so you can sort of get the idea.
In Corinth there were people that were wealthy people, as there is in any society. Then, there were people that were poor in Corinth. And then, there were slaves. There was a nine-day work week in first century Rome. So, nine days.
So, if you’re a Christian, and you want to celebrate the Lord’s meal every seven days, it’s falling primarily on a work day. So, it’s not like they got time off. They have to work.
Well, the wealthy people could get together around three or four in the afternoon at their house, and cook up a really big dinner, and they could sit and have a good time, and talk, and eat, and eat. And then, they could bring out the wine and have a glass, and then talk a little bit more, and have another glass of wine. And then, they could drink another glass of wine, much like people do around here about 12 o’clock at Cheesecake Factory, and then get into that diverging diamond. God help us all.
Anyway, they would get together, and they’re doing their thing, and they’re eating and whatever, and then about five or six o’clock the poor Christians would show up who had to work all day. And then, about two hours later the slaves would show up after they had put their master’s children to bed. And when they showed up, you’ve got people that are tipsy, because they’ve had their glasses of wine, and they’ve already eaten. These people have come from work and are hungry, and there’s all this food that’s been eaten on a table. And then, everybody says let’s get together and let’s have some bread and wine, and celebrate Jesus.
Paul says, man, I don’t have any good news to say here, because this is a disaster here, guys. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.
He goes, “What!” — He goes, — “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?”
You guys couldn’t go do this somewhere else? But when you come together as a church and realize the unity that you have is not on all the things you think or believe, but it’s in Christ. You guys can’t do that? “Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing?”
And here’s what he says. “What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.”
I can’t commend you in this.
So, guys, let’s re-up the situation again. Let’s talk about what we’re doing. He says, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed, He took bread, and when He had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body.’”
That was cool. All right, he says, “This is my Hitachi.” [LAUGHTER] And I have no signal.
So, “…when he had given thanks, he said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”
I know that those that watch via the internet and the mobile app, you can laugh. That was funny.
So, anyway, he says this. And he says, “And in the same way he took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Guys, when we come together at the table, and we do the bread and the wine, it is to remember Jesus. When we come together as a church it is to remember Jesus. Not to remember what we think we should be doing, or how we should be doing. It’s to remember Jesus.
The unity that we have is we believe that Jesus died on a cross, rose again on the third day physically, and one day is going to return. And we have decided to give our lives to Him, and we find unity in that. This is what we’re doing.
And he says, “For as often as you eat this break and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
Notice here, “…as often as you eat it (now), you proclaim the Lord’s death (in the past) until He comes (in the future).”
In this moment here, when we’re all together, and we’re doing the bread and the wine, he says what we’re doing is we’re remembering all of the things about Jesus. It’s all about Him. It’s all about lifting Him up. It’s all about focusing on Him. It’s all about realizing what He’s done for you and me.
And then Paul says, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”
Now, we got to unpacked this, because this has been used to just destroy people in the church. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I didn’t do communion today because I had a bad week.” That is not what this is talking about. It doesn’t say when you eat the bread or drink the blood unworthily. That’s not what it says. It says when you do it in an unworthy manner. And we got to figure out what that unworthy manner is, because Paul tells us what that unworthy manner is. And we don’t want to do it in an unworthy manner. What would it be to eat and drink in an unworthy manner? He’s going to tell us that.
He says, so if you do this… And here’s another thing. This has nothing to do with non-believers. I’ve heard so many people say, “Well, [grunts complaining].” He’s not writing to non-believers. He’s writing to Christians. He’s saying that Christians can do this in an unworthy manner, and we shouldn’t be doing in an unworthy manner. Because when we do it in an unworthy manner what he’s saying here is it’s like we’re those that are on the outside of Christianity that nailed Jesus to the cross, rather than those that have been redeemed from the fact that Jesus was nailed to the cross for you and me.
He says, don’t do this in an unworthy manner. He says, “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.”
In other words, guys, there’s a way you can do this that’s not good. And I’ve already told you what you’re doing is not good. I can’t even commend you for what you’re doing, because it’s ugly what you guys are doing. Don’t do it in an unworthy manner. Examine yourself here, because this is what you need to examine yourself for.
“For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement on himself.”
Now, we have what Paul is getting to. Discerning the body.
Well, they obviously aren’t discerning the body. They’re not loving their brothers and sisters in a way where they give of themselves to their brothers and sisters, because they’re doing what they want to do. They’re doing it the way they want to do church. They’re just being individuals, and not discerning the totality of the body, that we live in a community of faith. That we have brothers and sisters that we’re supposed to love. That when we say, hey, I’m signing up for the Jesus thing, it’s love God and love others.
And when we do the bread and we do the wine, when we discern the body, we’re not only saying, hey, Jesus’ body was broken for me so that I can be redeemed and be a part of His community, and partake of His righteousness and holiness, and become a child of God. But because of that, there’s also a body, and that’s you and me. Which means we need one another.
Let me break this down for you here. This is the best way to break this down. If you are in a church, and you’re a part of that body, when you are not involved in the body you’re robbing yourself of an abundant life, and you’re robbing us that are in the body of your gifts and talents. Think about that for a minute.
That means when you come to a church, and you may say today, “I don’t like this church anymore. I’m going to go to another church.” Well, if you go to another church make sure that you realize this. Sitting and listening to a sermon, and going off into a group of people that you just sort of like, is not discerning the body. We’re robbed and you’re robbed of all the great things that God has for you and me when we’re not all in this thing together.
When you say, “Why do we do communion the way we do? Why do we Our Father? Why do you do that? And everybody has to go together?” Because I want to make sure that we teach, when we do communion, how to properly discern the body.
He says, “If you eat and drink without discerning the body you eat and drink judgement on yourself.”
That’s not good. Everybody would go that’s not a good place to be. And listen to what he says, “That’s why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
Think about that for a minute. That not discerning the body… I mean, we just sort of go through life, right? The carpet doesn’t look like it’s really that stained until the bed gets moved. And you have that moment of where you go, man, is it possible that some of the areas of weakness in my life, is it possible that some of the illnesses in my life, is it possible that some of the things that are going on, could it be related to the fact that I’m not properly discerning the body in my Christian life? That I’m just sort of an individual doing my thing the way I like it, the way I do it. Rather than seeing that we need each other.
Let me tell you something. It is so important in the body of Christ that we realize we need each other. Some of you have gifts that we’re in desperate need of, and if you’re not involved and doing the things of God with us we miss out and you miss out. Because, see, when God using you and your gifting, you’re going to be like, “Whoa, that was awesome.”
Well, the person on the other side of receiving that gifting is going to go, “Thank you, Jesus, for allowing that person to pray for me, or to give into me, or to serve into me, and the things that they do.”
And sometimes, in our culture, which is a radically individualistic culture, it takes someone to move the bed for us to go, wow, there really is something here that maybe I’m missing.
And again, I want to reiterate something. I’m in a good mood. I had cinnamon twist coffee at nine o’clock. I’m happy. I’m smiling. There’s no snarky-ness here at all. I’m just trying to say, hey, maybe, just maybe, some of the struggles that we have is because we’re not properly discerning the body. And these are some of the consequences of it.
He says, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we wouldn’t be judged.”
In other words, if we just took a moment to say, hey, I need to think through this.
And then, he goes on to say this, “But when we’re judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
Let me unpack this theologically for you here. In Paul’s mind, you and I, because we are Christians, have been saved from the judgement of God at the end of time when God judges those that are not His own. So, the judgement that we have now in this lifetime is called discipline. God is disciplining you and me to create in us a what He wants us to be as we walk into finality, into the future.
And so, we’re not going to be judged like the world, but the judgements that we have in our lives in today are forms of discipline. And God disciplines you and me when we are not doing the things that He wants us to do. And that’s just the way that it is. And you can kick from it, and you can buck from it, but you can’t challenge it. Scriptures got it all over the place, that the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. Just like we discipline our children. Just like we discipline our pets. We know how to…
And it’s not punishment. It’s different. It’s discipline.
He says, “We’re disciplined so that we won’t be condemned along with the world.”
In other words, you’re not going to be condemned. If you’re a Christian you’re not going to be under God’s wrath on the final day. That sentence has been done. Jesus has taken that from you. The wrath of God against you has been taken. You stand in the righteousness and holiness of God.
But you also, you and me, stand to be disciplined by God when we get out of line. And part of the ways we can get out of line is by not discerning the body.
And so, he goes on to say, listen, “So the, my brothers, when you come together to eat wait…”
Don’t do that thing where you’re eating, and the table’s all the stuff, and you’re not really honoring your brothers and sisters, and you’re not discerning the body in the right way.
“If anyone’s hungry, go eat at home, so that when you come together it won’t be for judgement.”
So, in other words, you’re not doing this in the wrong way. And so, that’s all. A lot of stuff to unpack. There’s a lot of stuff in there. It’s one of those passages of Scripture that you go, “I don’t even know if I’ve ever seen that before. I’m not quite sure that I’ve even read that before. And so, Chip, I get the idea. I got to discern the body. I sort of get some of that idea, but can you help me to see what would that look like in today’s world, 2017? How can I, in my life, properly discern the body.”
And that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll call these the take-homes. If you write things down, or if you have an iPad, or a phone, or whatever, you take notes. This would be a good time to write these down. I want to help you. I want to help our church understand what it would mean to discern the body in a proper way, so that we’re living in the ways that God wants us to live.
Because some of the consequences of not discerning the body are what Paul just said. They’re symptoms, and we don’t want those symptoms in our lives.
I don’t think anybody here wants to be weak. I don’t think anybody in here wants to be ill. I don’t think anybody in here necessarily goes, “Man, you know what, yeah. I think I just want to die today.” None of that, right? Or divisions in the church, or whatever. All those things, we can deal with those things by just honestly taking a moment and saying what would it look like for me to discern the body? What would that look like?
So, let’s start here. First one: We properly discern the body when we focus on our unity, rather than trying to force uniformity.
Let’s flesh that out for a minute. You all know as well as I do, and this is again, I’m not being snarky. I’m not being nasty. I’m just being honest here. Most churches in America, most churches, and it’s sad, they line up to some sort of little thing that they all agree on, and then when you don’t agree with them on these particular issues, you’re really not welcomed. That’s called uniformity. That’s not called unity.
And what happens is churches get together and they go, “We believe this. And we believe there’s this many angels on a head of a pin. And we think this here about this thing. And we think that men should be this way. And we think this on this particular view. And we think this on this particular issue. And we think whatever.”
And then, when somebody comes into that church that doesn’t necessarily agree with some of those things, but yet they love God, they believe that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, they get on their knees at night as much or more than you do and cry out to God, and they read their Scripture as much or more than you do, they feel ostracized because they don’t measure up to all the litany of things that we believe create Christians in our uniformity.
When we come together as Christians, we come together to celebrate one thing. It doesn’t make a difference what car you drove in. It doesn’t make a difference the color of your skin. It doesn’t make a difference how much money you have in the bank. It doesn’t make a difference if you voted this way or that way. What matter is this. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God?
Jesus, when He said to the disciples, He didn’t say, “What do you think about this issue?” He said, “Who do you say that I am?”
And Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
And Jesus said to him, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in Heaven. Peter, you’ve answered right.”
That is the right answer. It’s not, what do you think about Me? It’s who do you say that I am?
And if we as Christians understand that it’s we come to remember Jesus, not to faction off into the groups that we think we like, or people that see the same thing. We come together and truly celebrate Jesus, then what we’re doing is we’re celebrating our unity.
Here’s the way it works. We don’t gather to meet with the likeminded, but to gather with the Christ-minded.
So, here’s the deal. If you just like to be around certain people, and just like to be around because they think the way you do and act the way you do, you’re not truly discerning the body at that point. Because, let me give you a secret here to your success as a Christian. It’s really good to sit across the table from a Christian that doesn’t agree with you on an issue, and to talk that out, and to be able to lay that down at the foot of the cross after the end of the conversation. And to agree that you are brothers and sisters, and lock arms together, and worship Jesus as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
That’s tough, because we live in a radically individualized society that’s more concerned about my rights, and my stuff. The Bible never talks about your rights at all. In fact, when it talks about your rights it says you ought to lay them down to serve someone else, which is totally foreign to our culture.
The Bible is not written to our culture. Christ confronts culture. If your church doesn’t make you squirm a little bit every once in a while, you’re probably not really getting the authentic Word of God. If you leave every time just happy and smiling, you’re probably not getting rebuked and corrected the way Scripture should rebuke and correct all of us at times.
It’s not a matter of getting together with the likeminded, but with the Christ-minded.
Do you understand how desperate we are to figure out a way to be a healthy family? It’s okay. And you say, “Okay so, I sort of get this idea. What would be like a real practical application for me today? How could I practically apply this?”
I’ll tell you how you could apply it. Laying down our positions that don’t have anything to do with salvation, and lifting up Jesus together.
Do you realize the world’s got plenty of divisions? We don’t need divisions in the church. And listen, we’ve got a great church. We really don’t have this stuff, but I still believe that you’ve got to put the mirror up on a regular basis. And you may have missed the little place that you shaved. And if it’s just a little placed that you missed, you need to get it.
The Word of God is that mirror that challenges you and me, and makes us think through the questions here. We need to learn to lay down our things. And that would be many things.
Honestly, as a pastor, as Christians, as all of us together, it’s trying to figure out a way to do the Jesus thing without separating out into groups and factions. And it’s so easy to do, because we like to do is we like to get with the people that think just the way we do, and we hang out with them, and we don’t want anybody else that’s maybe a little bit different from us. The beauty of the Kingdom of God is that people from all different races, and kindreds, and tongues, and places, and thoughts, and positions, come together. And what we unite around is Jesus. And if we’re going to discern the body, we need to realize how important unity is rather than uniformity.
In fact, in John 17:21 and 23, two verses, 21 and 23, Jesus says, “Father, let them be one as We are one, so that the world may know that You sent Me.”
When the church can walk in unity, and can lay things down that don’t have anything with our salvation, and put Jesus first, we walk in a place where the world is going to want to see what we have. Because the world is so divided, and the church doesn’t need to be divided.
Second thing I’ll tell you is, we properly discern the body when we ask what we can do for the good of the whole, rather than what the whole can do for us.
Again, I’m in a good mood, and I’m smiling. Good cinnamon twist. I got a really nice cold Perrier. Yum. Fantastic. This is a little tough here, so please understand this. The majority of American Christians, which includes us, are consumers. If we don’t like the way things are, we voice our opinion. If we don’t do this… Because it’s all about what the church does for me.
And listen, it can’t be that way. If we’re really going to do something…
Here’s the reality. I’m at the point in try life where I’m all done with… Look do I want the church to grow? Absolutely. Do I want to become…? Absolutely. But I am so more concerned with the truth of Jesus, and preaching the authentic Bible, than I am about anything else at this point in my life. I’m more worried about making sure that when I lay down in that pine box that Jesus says to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You stewarded the Word of God.” That’s where I’m at in my life right now.
And I’m not trying to rub anybody wrong. I mean, my basic personality is that I like people to like me. So, my basic personality is that I don’t like to have tough conversations with anybody. I’d rather just go out and play basketball with you, and have a good time. But here’s the reality. We got to stop being consumers if we’re going to do something great for the Kingdom of God. And I’m passionate about the fact, in my heart I believe God wants to send revival to Lakewood Ranch. I believe God wants to see businesses shut down, because people are praying on the street in Main Street because God has just absolutely invaded this community.
And for us to be a part of that move of God we’ve got to move from “What am I getting out of this?” and “What do I want?” into “How can I be a part of what’s going on?”
Because when we individualize and privatize our faith, we lose the beauty of community. We lose it.
So, what would that look like practically? What’s a practical application? Being invested in and serving in the ministry.
If you don’t like this place, you don’t like me, and you go somewhere else, that’s fine. But here’s the reality. Be invested in and serve at the church that you’re in. Listen, if you just come and sit and gather with just the people that you like, and that’s all you do, please understand something. You’re not only missing out on what God can do in your life by not properly discerning the body, but you’re robbing everybody else at Grace Community Church of the gifts and the talents that God has given you.
Which means, we want everybody involved in ministry. We don’t sit around and go, “How many people showed up?” Although, we want to know how many people showed up. We don’t sit around and go, “How much was the offering?” Although, we care about the fact that we keep the lights on. But those are not the drivers of Grace Community Church.
Do you know what the drivers are in the staff? The drivers are how many people are involved in ministry. How many people are serving in the church. Because here’s what we find out. We get emails on a regular basis from people who go, “My life is changed because of Grace Community Church.” And inevitably it’s because they got involved in doing something for the Kingdom of God.
How do you invest? Time. Talent. Treasure. Time Talent. Treasure.
How do you invest in a ministry? Tim. Talent. Treasure. That’s how you do it.
Serving in the ministry. Small group leader. Greeting somebody at the front. Nursery. Preaching. Whatever it may be. We want to get involved.
And here’s what we have extended to every service, and we’re extending it to this one, too. If you would like to get involved. And there’s two reasons why people usually don’t get involved. One, they’re new, and they’re like, “We pulled in. We’re not even sure if this a cult, because it’s in the back.” Or whatever. So, you’re new and you may think, “I’m not sure I want to get involved. I’m not quite sure.” Let me challenge you to get involved.
And secondly, people don’t get involved because sometimes they’ve just been burned by a church. They’ve just been burned by something. Let me tell you something. Sometimes you got to get out on the water to walk on the water. You got to get out of that boat sometimes, and trust God to be involved in serving.
Here’s what we’ve offered everybody. Call into the church, say I want 30 minutes with the pastor. You’re going to get one of the pastors on staff. We will sit down with you, and we will go through your gifting, and your talents, and we will try our best to match you with something that will work for you in service, so that you can get involved in doing the things of the Kingdom of God. That is properly discerning the body.
We need your help. We need your talents in ministries, because some of you, believe it or not, some of you have the gift of healing. And you know what? There’s people that are sick that you may pray for, and God may heal them. We need that.
Some of you have words of wisdom that need to be spoken into people’s life. Some of you all have gifts of service that could help someone out. Some of you all have gifts of listening that could listen to someone, and understand. Some of you have gifts, and we want those gifts to be used. Because when God’s using your gift, you walk in abundance, and so does the body. Does that make sense?
I hope I’m making sense here.
Third, we properly discern the body when we allow ourselves to consistently have some spiritual and moral examination.
Simply put, to just say, “God, search me. Just search me, God. Am I really discerning the body? Am I really involved in this thing? Just search me.”
Here’s what Richard Hays, a great New Testament scholar, says, “Those who are failing to discern the body are those who act selfishly, focusing on their own spirituality and exercising their own social privileges while remaining heedless of those who share with them in the new covenant inaugurated by the Lord’s death.”
In other words, we’re all in this thing together. When I do communion, you remember I always say, “Our Father,” not “My Father.” Let’s do it together. I need you. You need me. Maybe you understand why I do communion that way. Maybe you understand what’s the mode behind that.
And the fourth thing I would tell you is this. We properly discern the body when we put aside the earthly constraints that separate us.
And we let so many things separate us as Christians. In fact, we go to the extent sometimes of saying, “Oh, they can’t be a Christian.” Let me give you the straight truth here. When the Philippian jailer, or the guy on the cross said, “I need to get saved,” they didn’t say, “Well, hold on. Let me pull out my chart back here. This here, did you do this? And do that? This? Do you agree with me on this? Look at this here. Okay. You’re in.”
No. No. Paul said, “You want to be saved? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Jesus plus nothing equals everything. Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
And we want to go, “No, you got to do this, and this, and this.”
No. Listen to me. If somebody says to me, “I believe Jesus Christ is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. I believe He died on the cross, and He rose on the third day, and I believe one day He’s coming back.”
I am slapping five with that person, and saying, “You are a brother and sister in the Lord, as far as I am concerned.”
God can separate all the other things out, but as far as I’m concerned, you and I are brothers. Let’s unite around Jesus. Let’s lay down all the things at the foot of the cross, and let’s get out doing the things God has you and me to do. Separate all that stuff that bogs us down.
So, here’s the way I would say it. Allowing our gatherings to be a place that resembles Heaven. Do you know what the beauty of the first century church was? You could have somebody that owned a house, and was wealthy, and had all kinds of land, that could sit at the same table as a slave, and say, “You’re my brother, and you’re my sister, in the Lord.”
If we could come in here and set aside all the things that separate us, and unite around Jesus, remember Him, you have no idea the power that is in that unity of putting our eyes upon Him and focusing upon Him, rather than all the things that we focus on. And you’d be surprised if we could truly discern the body, I think you might be blown away at the abundance that you find in your life, in your family, and the abundance that we find in the way that we reach this community.
So, I’m just challenging you here. Once again, I’m in a good mood. I’m happy, okay? Everything’s good, and our church is wonderful. And our church, honestly, excels in so many of these areas. But the Word of God is always something good to remind us of where we need to be, and not to settle.
And so, I just want to challenge everybody as we talk about the Things that are behind the Things. One of the things that might be creating some symptoms in your life is a lack of properly discerning the body. So, I’m going to challenge everybody to properly discern the body, and just let God speak to you and get involved. And let’s do this thing together. And let’s really see Lakewood Ranch changed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amen? Amen.
Dear Heavenly Father, I know we went through a lot of Bible passages today, but Lord, I’m committed to the fact of the authority of the Word of God. Lord, in fact, I believe so much that I could just read the Bible and go back to my office, and it would be sufficient.
Lord, Your Word is very clear that we are to discern the body. And Lord, I think many of us, if we’re honest, can say there’s areas where in the normal things of life, the carpet’s gotten a little dingy, but when we remove the bed we realize, hey, this needs some attention.
Lord, I pray that in a gentle way, not in a guilty way, not in a way that brings any condemnation towards anybody, because that’s not the point here, but Lord, in an encouraging and inspirational way, I pray that You would speak to our hearts, Lord, to find those areas where we might properly discern the body.
And I pray, Lord, that if there’s anybody listening via the internet, mobile app, or anybody here in the building this morning that’s not a part of Your body, that says, “I’m not even sure where I’m at,” Lord, I pray today would be the day where they say, “Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Be my Lord and Savior.”
And Lord, if there’s somebody that’s ready to pray that prayer, wants to pray that prayer, or does that prayer at their chair, I pray, Lord, they would find somebody in the church, name badge or a gray shirt on, and say, “Hey, help me out here.” And if anybody’s listening via the internet or mobile app, and they’re thinking the same thing, I pray, Lord, they would send us an email or phone call us, Lord, so that we can help them out.
Lord, I pray that You would continue to lead, guide, and direct this church for Your glory and for Your honor. I believe, Lord, the days that are ahead are incredibly great. I believe, Lord, the church is going to shine in ways that we haven’t seen in years and years. I believe, Lord, the New Testament church that was infiltrating all areas of society can be the church of today. Lord, the world is dark, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a bright light. Help us, Lord, to become that church that truly reaches the unchurched by being intentionally neighbors that reflect Christ for Your glory and for Your honor.
We thank You for it in Jesus’ name, and everybody said Amen. give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning also to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. We’re in a series called The Thing. And most of you all know I like to sort of do a little bit of summary and recap as to what we’re doing, because I know there’s always visitors, there’s people that miss a week, and then, you know, just for all of us it’s a good thing to remember what we’re doing.
So, we’re talking about the areas of our lives, and all of us have it at some level, where there seems to be something that we have that occurs on a regular basis. Something that we would rather not do. Maybe it’s we get angry at this, or we get frustrated at that. Or maybe it’s we have a fight with our spouse over the same things on a regular basis. Maybe we have an addiction. Maybe we have some issues with lust. Maybe we have some problems with finances. Or maybe we just get in bad relationships over and over and over again. And we all go, “I want to get better at this.”
And, as a pastor, and as something who talks to people, and as someone who’s lived life themselves, I realize this is a real issue in church. Back in the day, we used to call this sanctification. How do you become more like Jesus? And the fact of the matter is that many people struggle with these same things over and over again.
And here’s the way it goes in church. You’ve got, usually, two ways in which people come at this problem, and neither one of them solve it. You’ve got people who go, “You need to go to more small groups. You need to pray more, or read more, or do this more, or put some Wesson oil on your head. Step backwards a couple of times.” Whatever you do. And they try and try and try and try and try. It’s not going to work.
Or somebody comes along and goes, “Hey, I got this ultra secret book that it’ll tell you everything that you need to know to understand. Or this DVD. If you could just understand grace a little bit more, it’ll solve all the problems.” And none of them solve the problems, because we keep doing the same things over and over and over again.
And so, as a pastor, I’m tired of watching people not live out a victorious life, and not being able to give equipping to people when the Bible’s so clear that we should be people that walk in victory. The Bible’s so clear that we should be people that live lives of ethics and morals. The Bible’s so clear that we ought to be people that really look like Jesus. And yet, we struggle.
You know, some people go, “Oh, well don’t tell anybody that, because then you’re having to do too much stuff, or whatever.” Or somebody comes along and says, “Just rest in this, and do this, or whatever.” The fact of the matter is, I’ve not met too many people that don’t struggle with things in their life. No matter where they come from, and what theological persuasion, or biblical persuasion, or spiritual persuasion the come from. And I think it’s because we might be addressing it in a wrong way.
And that’s the whole background of this series. I truly, as your pastor, when I read Ephesians 4, and it says God put people in the church, apostles, and prophets, and evangelists, and pastors, and teachers to equip saints so that they can work ministry. I take that for real. I think that we need to be people that can do the things that God’s called us to do. And often times we are hindered by secret things in our lives.
And then, what happens in the church, because we all like to put on sometimes the facade, and we don’t want anybody to know that we’re struggling, we just deal with these things alone, by our self, and it keeps coming up. It’s this thing that we see regularly. We put it in the closet. And then all of a sudden we walk into the bedroom, and there it is right in front of us like it hasn’t gone away. And we don’t know what to do. And so, I want to help you out.
And I think one of the biggest things to understand in living out this Christian life is this simple truth. The thing that we think is the thing, is usually not the thing. And you say, “Well, what do you mean by that? What does that mean for me?” What I’d like to say to you is is the things that we focus on, whatever that thing is that you’re struggling with, it is probably a symptom of something else. It is a fruit of another root in your life, and if we’re not dealing with the cause, and we’re not dealing with the root, it doesn’t make a difference what we pray, how we talk about it, what we believe. We’re not going to see these things go away.
And so, I feel like we need to talk and have a dialogue about this thing that we call the thing. And many of us know we got them, and they’re stuff we deal with on a regular basis, and we want to get rid of it and we want to move on.
And so, it took me a while. I’ve been studying Scripture for a long time. It took me a long time to realize, because I’ve gone on both sides. I’ve done the pray more, pray more, pray more, pray more, read more, read more, read more, read more. And that didn’t seem to work. And then I’ve done the just sort of sit in grace, sit in grace, sit in grace, sit in grace. And it didn’t help me any either. And neither one of them were helping me out. I felt better over here with grace, because at least I wasn’t feeling like I was a scum all the time. But the fact of the matter is that I still had these areas in my life that were not coming out.
And you read Scripture all the time, and Paul’s like, “Man, you can walk this thing out. You can do this thing. You can live this thing.” And it dawned on me that so many times in Scripture, and I don’t know why it took so long, that Jesus when He deals with something is not the thing that the people thought needed to be dealt with. He deals with something behind that thing.
And I’ll give you an example here of a passage of Scripture in Mark 2. It says, “When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.”
Now, Jesus has gone away for a little while, and He’s come back to Capernaum, and He’s in a house. These houses are not very big. These houses are actually really, really small. You might could have got 20 or 30 people inside the house at most. Forty if you really, really were cramming it in. But they were small houses. And people in Capernaum, this village, they hear that Jesus is back in the village. He’s home.
And so, what do they do? Well, they come to see him. It says, “Many were gathered together so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.”
See, they knew about Jesus. They knew that Jesus could heal people. They knew that Jesus spoke words that people had never heard. And so, the villagers come, and they come inside the house. They want to hear Jesus talk. He’s talking to them. They filled up the whole interior of the house. Now, they’re standing outside of the door. There’s no room at all.
And then, Mark wants us to see, because it’s emphatic in the original language, he says, “And they came.”
In other words, he set up a situation, and now here’s some people that are coming. And what are they doing? Well, they’re bringing to him a paralytic, somebody who can’t move, who’s immobilized, carried by four men.
So, these four men got this, probably, piece of wood, or cot, or bed, and they’re carrying him along. Could be a sheet. Who knows what it is? But they’re carrying him along. Four on each corner of this rectangular thing, while this guy’s laying there and he can’t move.
And so, they come up on the house here, and it says, “And when they could not get near him because of the crowd…” — In other words, they walked up. They couldn’t get passed the crowd. So, what did they do? They could have left. They could have just left him there. They could have taken off. They could have done a lot of things. But no, they improvise. What they did is, — “They removed the roof…” — They climbed up on the roof. They got up on the roof and they removed, the original language is they dug through, they dug through… — “…the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”
Can you imagine being there? Can you imagine a small group study? Jesus doing a Kay Arthur thing, or something? They didn’t have that back then. But anyways, doing a small group, and they got the chips and dips, and all the stuff. Tostitos and Sargento cheese, and everything. It was probably mashed potatoes and gravy, because this is southern Israel.
Anyways, so they’re doing their thing. Jesus is talking, and all this stuff. And all of a sudden, the roof. They start digging through the roof. And you know that stuff’s falling on everybody. I mean, it’s like mud, and thatch, and stuff hitting people. And they’re like, “What’s up?” You know? “Breaking and entering.” You know, or whatever it was.
And so, they do that, and all of a sudden here comes this bed into the house. Can you imagine that scene? That would have been crazy, wouldn’t it? I mean, crazy.
Now, some of you like the Bible. You’re nerds like me. Let me just give you a cool little Bible thing. I don’t want anybody to walk out of here and go, “I didn’t get any cool Bible stuff today.” Let me show you some cool Bible stuff. Mark, in the way he’s written this, has reenacted a funeral scene. See, they’re carrying the guy like pallbearers, and then they dig through the mud and the ground, and they lower him into the grave. And then, what does he do? He meets Jesus in the grave, and Jesus says rise. Resurrection power for the dead. It’s so cool. It’s really neat stuff. I can’t preach on that today, but it’s really neat stuff.
So anyway, they remove the roof above. They did this stuff. Paralytic comes down. He’s there on the ground, “…and when Jesus saw their faith…” — He looks up. The roof probably wasn’t any higher than this here. He looks up, sees them, and he says to the paralytic. And you know what He’s going to say, right? I mean, He’s going to say, “You’re healed.” Because that’s the thing. The thing is he’s a paralytic. He can’t move.
So, Jesus looks up, looks at the paralytic, and He says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
You know those guys up top are like, “Dude, we just like dug through the roof. We wanted the Jesus thing where the guy gets healed.” And they’re probably going, “Can He even forgive sins? What’s this all about?”
See, the Bible doesn’t always say that because you and I have sin in our life that it also leads to sickness. We know that because John 9. There’s a guy born blind, and the disciples asked who sinned. Was it his mom? Dad? Him? Jesus is like, “Nobody sinned.”
So, sickness and sin are not always tied together, but many times they are. Jesus realizes that this paralytic’s desperate need, his thing, is not to be healed of his paralysis. The desperate thing this guy needs is he needs to be forgiven. And when he’s forgiven it then moves to where Jesus can say, “You can be healed now, and move on.” Because the thing that everybody thought was the thing, the fact that he’s paralyzed, wasn’t the thing. The most important thing was that he got his sins forgiven.
And you start reading Scripture and you see this over and over again, where Jesus is always doing something that’s behind the scenes to alleviate the things that everybody thinks that are the most important stuff. And that’s what we’re trying to do in this particular series.
I believe, we’re praying and doing things on things that aren’t things. They’re things, don’t get me wrong. They’re real things, but they’re not the thing. And the reason we’re not getting better’s not because we don’t know a theological truth, or we don’t know what the Bible says about this, or we don’t know how to pray more. It’s that we’re just not dealing with the right thing.
I mean, Jesus talks about that all the time. You’ve got to pray for the right things. You’ve got to know what you’re praying for. You’ve got to know this stuff.
And so, what I want to do is I want to talk to you today about a major, major, major cause of many of our things. In fact, one minister that’s been doing ministry for years, and you would know his name if I told you, he said, “When I first started ministry, I would have thought maybe 10 or 15 percent of the problems that people have was related to this issue. It wasn’t but about five years in I realized it was at least 50 percent.” He said, “And now that I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he said, “I can tell you 90 to 95 percent of all the symptoms people have in their lives is because of this particular thing.”
And what is that particular thing, you might ask?
It’s unforgiveness. It’s not forgiving people for things that they’ve done against you and me. And that’s tough. It’s tough to forgive. It’s tough when somebody’s done us wrong. It’s tough when we got fired at thing, or we had a wife walk out on us, or a husband walk out on us, or a dad that didn’t love us, or a mom that didn’t do it. It’s tough. I mean, it’s tough.
You want to know how tough it is? Saul and Ethel, this wonderful couple, Saul did something really, really bad to Ethel. Can’t say it at 10:15. I can say it at Saturday night, because they’re a little less sanctified. But did some really bad stuff to her, and she just flat got on him for it.
And he said, “I’m sorry.”
And she said, “I forgive you.” She said, “It’s the motto of my life. Forgive and forget.”
And he’s like, “Thank you so much.”
Well, about every month she’d bring it back up. Well, after ten years Saul’s like, “Man, I’m tired of living this thing.” Finally, he says, “Honey, we got to have a talk.”
She’s like, “What about?”
He’s like, “Well, you remember that thing I did?”
“You told me that your motto was forgive and forget. What’s up?”
She’s like, “It is, honey.” She says, “I didn’t want you to forget that I had forgiven and forgotten, right?”
Come on now. It’s true. It’s hard to forgive.
So, here’s what I want to talk about this weekend here with everybody at Grace: This truth lesson. We need to realize, all of us collectively, all of us need to realize that unforgiveness is a very common (not like an outlier) a very common root or cause of the thing. Whatever that may be.
And let me show you what this looks like in terms of a diagram. Typically, we deal with these. These are symptoms. This is a cause. And we’re dealing with these things.
For instance, depression. I’m not telling you that all depression is related to unforgiveness, but I can tell you that a lot of depression is related to unforgiveness. We’re going to talk about all of these things, okay?
How about this here. Anger. Anger.
And what we’ll do is we’d say, “You know, we need to pray for anger. Brother bless God. Be angry and sin not.” We’ll quote Scripture. We’ll tell them, “You rest. Come to me, you who are weary, heavy-laden. I’ll give you rest.” And we’ll do that thing.
No. No. No. We’re not dealing with the thing. We’re dealing with a thing, but not the thing.
How about this one here? Sickness.
How about this one? Anxiety.
And I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking, “Man, there ain’t no way in the world anxiety is related to unforgiveness. That’s crazy. I’d love for you to be able to show me that.”
Glad you asked. Let me show you how that works. Okay so, anxiety. We bring it into Bible study. You know what I’m talking about? We bring it into small group. We go, “Man, I’m so anxious. I’m just so anxious.”
And people will be like, “Just rest in the Lord. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Just come to the Lord. Cast all your cares on Him. Be still and know that He’s God.”
And you’re thinking, “But I’m still anxious. They’ve prayed for me. They’ve even put Wesson oil on my head. It didn’t work.” You know, all that good stuff.
And you start talking to people, you start praying, and you start really looking at this stuff. Anxiety’s not the thing.
“Just rest in Jesus. Just do…”
No. Anxiety’s not the thing. That’s not going to solve the problem. The thing, we keep talking, is the need to control now.
What do you…? So, hold on. Yeah. I want to control my life, and I can’t control my life. I want to control, and I can’t control. I can’t control all the things that are going on. And what it does is it makes me anxious.
Well, why do you want to control so much? Well, because I’ve been deeply hurt and deeply wounded. And I don’t want to ever have that happen to me again. So, I want to control so I don’t get hurt. So, I don’t get wounded. And that leads to anxiety.
Well, what happened? Well, I had a really bad relationship that went sour. And then, by the time you get to there you realize that there’s unforgiveness. And that anxiety that we’re trying to deal with, and pray about, and tell everybody to read this book, and watch this DVD, that’s not what the thing is. The thing is this. And this has to be dealt with.
Now, listen. I want to show you another way, because I like to use things that you can understand. I know you guys watch people on TV, and they have big budgets for props. We don’t. I had 13 cents. So, this is what I’m going to do. I’ll show you how this works. Okay.
You’re sick, okay? Now, you may just need to get well. You just may need to go to a doctor and get some medicine and be better. But some people, they bring the thing, sickness, to the small group, or to prayer meeting, or wherever. I’m sick.
People go, “Okay, in Jesus’ name we’re going to heal you.”
Okay, well hold on for a second. “Sir? Ma’am? You’re thing here is sickness. Why do you feel like you’re so sick?”
“Well, you know, I’m sick a lot.”
“Really? Do you think there’s anything that might be…”
“Well, yeah. I am stressed out.”
And then we do, “In Jesus’ name. Stress.” Whatever.
No. “You’re stressed out. Okay. Well, what are you stressed out about? What’s stressing you so much?”
“Well, what’s stressing me so much is three months ago I lost my job, and I’m worried about my finances. And it’s stressing me out, and I’m sick a lot. Because that scum that I worked for, that guy, that person who did me wrong, has put me in this position.”
And now we have the thing. Unforgiveness. Now we have this.
Can I just… It’s a little early. It’s still 10:15. At 11:30 I can get wound up a little bit. I’m going to not preach too hard here, but let me say to you here that when you allow someone like this to have that much control over your life, you’re missing the most important thing that I can tell you as your pastor. This guy and your job is not what provides for your finances. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who says I will supply all your needs, according to My riches in glory. And you can forgive this person, and move on.
And so, what we do is when we forgive, all of a sudden all these other symptoms, they go away. Instead of treating the thing here, this thing, we’re treating this thing and getting it to work.
So, I hope that makes a little sense there. And I hope you understand what I’m talking about. And so, let’s continue on, because here’s what you should be thinking at this point. You should be going, “Alright, you’re right. Unforgiveness can really be something that hold me down. Uncle. I got it. I got some things in my life. You’re right. Uncle. You’re right. I got it. But what I need now, Chip, and I need it really bad, is I need some practical/ applicational/ and informational help. Can you give me some things that’ll maybe help me before somebody does me wrong? And what happens when I’m in the middle of it, and whatever else?”
Yeah, there’s a Greek word for that. It is “practi-appli-formational” help. There you go. So, that’s what we’re going to do from here on.
And right before we get there, I want to tell you a little story here that I think’s important.
Alan Reeser, who’s one of our board members, was here last night. Him and Linda are celebrating 46 years of wedding bliss. They’re great people. They’re awesome people. And yeah, they’re fantastic people. Yay, 46 years. Like three people are like, “Yeah, alright. Yeah.” That’s where we’re at in America, isn’t it? “Forty-six years. Alright man.”
Anyway, here’s what Alan said. Alan said to me, “That was great.” He says, “I remember back when I was doing the homeless ministry,” and I worked with Alan in the homeless ministry back when I was a teenager. He said, “I realized about 95 percent of the homeless people were living in unforgiveness.”
And he said, “I would tell them a story on a regular basis about a backpack. That they put a backpack on their back, okay? And backpacks, there’s nothing to it. But along the way somebody would pull in front of them in traffic, and they’d get made and put a little piece of sand in that backpack.
Somebody would do something here. Put a little piece of sand in that backpack. Then, something would happen at work, and it’d be a pebble in that backpack. Then, somebody would go through a divorce, and it’d be a big boulder in that backpack. Then, dad would do somebody wrong. Big boulder in the backpack. Somebody would do something here. A little piece of sand.”
Before long, that backpack is really heavy. It’s really heavy, and you’re carrying that around in your life. And what happens is that often times we come to Jesus. We have that backpack, and what we do is we go, “It’s great. Jesus has forgiven me, and all that good stuff. And I’m going to forgive everybody else, and whatever.” But we’re accustomed to wearing that backpack.
And we may move forward in our lives, and not put a whole lot more rocks and sand in that backpack as we go forward, but we’re still carrying that backpack. And the only way that backpack’s going to get cleaned out is you got to take it out, and you got to start dealing with some of those rocks and those pieces of sand that are in there to lighten that load.
And it’s true. And I’ll give you a personal example here. And I know we’re being recorded, and so I want to make sure that I am very particular here, because I don’t want to hurt anybody or create any issues because some people who watch these things… I mean, we got people all over the world watching these things. I don’t want to say anything that would implicate anybody.
But when I was a young person, and I was in my early 20s. Some of y’all didn’t even think I was that old, but I am. This was probably 25 years ago. I worked at a church of about three thousand people, and I was a minister on staff. And what was going on in the church is there was a pastor that was having an affair with a secretary.
And I was brand new, you know? Doing the best I could. Trying to do the Jesus thing. Trying to love God. I knew that was wrong, but I didn’t know… What do you do, you know? I was just trying to do my deal. I was trying to stay in my lane. And I got called in, and the staff, except for me, was all family members. They called me in, they’re like, “Are you on our team?”
And I’m like, “Um, I’m on Jesus’ team.”
They’re like, “But are…”
I’m like, “Yeah, I’m not going to go out with a sign out front and do that, or say anything. But I mean, if you’re asking me if I’m supportive of this… No.”
Well, they fired me. And it stuck for a while. I mean, I was bitter, you know? I remember it was several years ago, but I called up this man because I knew he was going to be retiring. And I said, “I want you to know I’ve held some things against you for a long time.”
And it took him a minute to even remember who I was. That’s how insignificant in his life I was. And that was fine. I realized that. But to me it was a big deal, and I carried that. And I said, “I forgive you.”
And it’s interesting, a lot of the things that I dealt with, and a lot of the things that I struggled with went away when I was able to say, “Hey, I forgive you. Let’s move on.”
And so, what I want to do is I want to help you get to the place in your life where you can forgive, and you can move on. And you’ll see a lot of the symptoms, a lot of the things that you’re dealing with that don’t seem to go away, it’s because you’re not dealing with the real thing. The thing that you think the thing is not really the thing. There’s something back here.
So, I’m going to give you some help, some practical help, some ways to deal with unforgiveness. And some of them are going to be before it ever happens to you. Some of it’s going to be while you’re in it. But I’m going to give you a lot of stuff here that you can take home hopefully.
So, if you take notes, this is the time to get out your notepad, or your iPad, or whatever, and write these things down.
The first thing that I want us to understand is this: Offenses are going to come.
You say, well, that’s self-intuitive. No, it’s not, because when somebody does you wrong, the first thing you say to guys like me is this, “I can’t believe that happened.”
See, you didn’t think it was coming, because you couldn’t believe it happened. Might be better if you said, “I can’t believe it’s taken this long for it to get here.”
You say, “Well, come one, Chip. That seems a little…”
No, it’s not, because let me give you this revelational truth that you and I need to take home, put in our back pocket.
People can only deliver on the level of their capacity.
If I give you an iPhone that’s broken and say, “Could you post on Facebook today that you were at church?”
You go, “It won’t do it. It’s broken.”
Yeah, because it can only deliver to the level of its capacity. It can’t do something that it can’t do. And so, listen to me, and hear me well. There’s not one person in this room that has it all together. There’s only one person that ever lived that had it all together, and His name was Jesus. If you’re Hispanic, it was Jesus.
But that’s who He was. He was Jesus, and Jesus lived a perfect life. We don’t.
Now, His righteousness and His perfection is put on us when we believe in Him, but we’re not perfect yet. We haven’t arrived yet. We’re still in process. We still live in a fallen world. We live in between the now and the not yet. And that’s such a conundrum.
That’s why Paul could say in one epistle, “You’ve put off the old man, and put on the new man.”
And then he could say in another epistle, “You need to put off the old man, and put on the new man.”
And people go, “Wow. How does that make sense?”
Because we live in a tension here.
Listen, people are broken. So, if you understand people are broken, guess what people are going to do? They’re going to let you down. They’re going to hurt you. And guess what you’re going to do? You’re going to hurt other people. Listen, you’re going to hurt your wife. Your wife’s going to hurt you. You’re going to hurt your husband. Your husbands going to hurt you.
I can tell you, people at church are going to hurt you. People that you know are going to hurt. I’m going to hurt my kids. I know my kids are going to hurt me, because they’re a bunch of sinners. And so, there’s a lot of things that… I’m just telling you. It’s just the way it is. We’re broken. And we can only deliver on the level of our capacity.
On top of that, you may be a cup, and they may be a quarter cup. A quarter cup cannot deliver a cup. It can only deliver up to the level of its capacity. And if you’re expecting a 10-foot boat to operate like a 27-foot boat, you’re going to be disappointed.
Understand before any offense comes, before anybody’s done you wrong, before anybody’s hurt you, or any of that stuff, understand people can only deliver on the level of their capacity. Which means, offenses are going to come. Which means, you can manage that expectation before it ever comes your way.
And here’s another really good thing to know is this. Is that they usually don’t start (whoever’s done something wrong to you, or if you’ve done something wrong to them) usually it didn’t start off with the mindset of doing harm or hurting you and me. They were just weak.
Now, if you’ve been in a situation where for five years y’all been doing the Hatfield and McCoy, well then yeah. You might be doing things to hurt each other, and you’re just being wicked.
But my point is that most people, when they had a spouse that cheated on them, or they had a guy that took money from their business, or they did something to this person, or they cheated their person, or they couldn’t get this together, it wasn’t because they set out that morning and said, “What I’m going to do is I’m going to hurt that person.” No, they were just weak, because people can only deliver up to the capacity that they can.
And when we start giving that grace to everybody, realizing that people are going to fail us, it will take the sting of the offense out of our lives before we get it. That’s why Jesus said, “Hey, if you don’t have any sin at all, anybody without sin, if you don’t have any sin…”
It’s funny. I hear Christians all go, “I ain’t got no sin.”
You’re crazy. You got plenty of it. In Jesus, no. But in your life, yes. You do.
“Anybody without sin, without sin, no sin at all, throw the stone.”
Why does He say that? Because people may sin differently than you and me, but we shouldn’t hold that against them because they sin differently that you and me. That’s important to understand before we get all bent out of shape. This is some proactive things. This some preventative things. Understand people are going to fail you, and you’re going to fail them. That’ll help you understand how to deal with some of this stuff when it happens.
Second thing I would tell you is this: Realize that unforgiveness isn’t a protector. It’s a prison.
Here’s what we do. We do, “I got hurt. This person hurt me. So, what I’m going to do. If I forgive them they can hurt me again. So, I’m going to keep that wall. I’m going to keep that protection up, because that way they can’t hurt me again.”
The only person who’s in prison with that wall that you’ve just built is you and me. They’re not driving University thinking about what they did. They’re listening to their song that they like, just singing and thinking about going to a movie. You’re not even on their thought. Like when I called up that minister. He’s like, “Um… Oh yeah, I remember you.” You know, he wasn’t the… I was. The only person in prison was me.
Because unforgiveness isn’t a protector. It’s a prison. You and I are the only ones held by our unforgiveness. And we can debate all day long theologically. We can get in an argument. We can fight. We can roll on the floor, and whatever, about what this Scripture means. But at the very least it means it’s not good to live in unforgiveness. “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
I can tell you at the very least that’s not a good place to be is living a life of unforgiveness.
And I’ve said it in this room before, I’ve said it to many of you all before, and it’s just the best story that I got. Corrie ten Boom watched her sister get raped brutally in the Holocaust at the concentration camp. After the war was over, she got up and preached a message about salvation, telling people that Jesus loved them.
And as she was going through the crowd of people that were coming up front to respond to her message, she looked up and there was one of the soldiers that had raped her sister. She was furious. She was enraged. Until she realized the only person in prison was her, because of her inability to unforgive. And she laid it down right then.
It’s not a protector. It’s a prison.
Third thing I’ll tell you. Realize that unforgiveness doesn’t stay where it started.
This is huge, because what we do is we go, “Well, yeah but I had this relationship with this guy or this girl, and it didn’t go right. And I’ve got that wall up. And I understand I don’t like them, but it’s just compartmentalized. It’s just between…”
No, it’s not. For unforgiveness is like a poison. It’s like a cancer. It just spreads everywhere. It doesn’t stay where it started. It goes into your spirituality, into your health, into your marriage, into relationships, into your mentality, your attitude, your family. It spreads everywhere.
And before long, that thing that you think that you only got with this person, the person then you start dating or you start getting married with, or whatever, they’re doing the same thing. And you’re like five times more hostile to them in that particular situation than you should be. And they’re like, “Whoa, what’s going on?”
It’s because that unforgiveness that you have on somebody else has spread into other relationships. And that’s what it does. It does not stay where it started. It spreads. It’s like a cancer.
In fact, some of you maybe go, “Okay, Jesus thing. I came here First Friday. I’m not really sure about all that stuff. Y’all had some cool rides. You seemed like you were a nice guy, so I showed up today just to hang out and see what… I’m not really sure about all the claims of God, and everything else.”
Okay, forget all that stuff. Let’s talk about doctors. You know, doctors with the stethoscope, you know? The ones that you go into, and they do that doctor stuff. Listen to what the doctors say. This is doctors. This isn’t Chip. This isn’t Jesus. This is doctors. Doctors say this, “Sixty-one percent of cancer patients carry unforgiveness.”
In fact, they have a chart. Some of y’all are a lot smarter than I am. Some of y’all are doctors, and you’ll know this chart. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I just know it’s called the six stages of cancer, and it starts off with traumatic stress stuff, which is unforgiveness, and it leads to cancer. This is what it looks like. See, prolonged psycho-emotional stress, and now down here to cancer.
I grew up in a Pentecostal church. I think I heard cell mitochondria DNA mutations one time, and somebody translated it. But the deal here is that this shows you here… I mean, depletes adrenaline, and all this stuff leading to cancer. This is serious. This is…
God bless you. This is serious stuff.
I can multitask. I’m telling you. ADHD. Man, I can… Squirrel.
Listen to what the doctors say. You know the Mayo Clinic? That’s not where they make Hellmann’s mayonnaise. That’s where there’s doctors and nurses that get together. The Mayo Clinic, listen to what they say. They say, “If you and I live a life of forgiveness towards other these are the benefits. Healthier relationships.
I’ve never met anybody that goes, “I’m just going to live in unforgiveness, because I just don’t want to have any healthy relationship. I can’t stand those things.”
No, they don’t. So, healthier relationship.
Listen to this. Greater spiritual well-being. Less anxiety. Less stress.
It’s like, who doesn’t want this?
Speaking of stress, this minister was in town. He had circles the block ten times looking for a place to park. There was no place to park. So, he pulled into an area that he shouldn’t have parked. And he gets out, gets a sheet of paper. He says, I’m a minister. I love God. I circled the block ten times. I couldn’t find a spot. I’m going to be late to my appointment. Forgive my trespass.
Put it on the windshield. Takes it. Comes back out. Ticket on his window. He’s made as can be. Ministers sometimes can get mad. So, he gets mad, and can’t believe he’s got a ticket.
Well, there’s a note. He opens the note. It says, I’m a policeman. I’ve been circling this block for ten years. If I don’t give you a ticket I might lose my job. Lead me not into temptation.
Come on. You know? So…
So, look at all this. And we’re not done. Look at… These are the benefits of living a life of forgiveness. Look at this. Less hostility. Lower blood pressure. Fewer symptoms of depression. Stronger immune system. Improved heart health.
Just so that we can all get a snapshot. Look at all this. All these things are just from living a life of forgiveness, where we don’t hold unforgiveness against others.
When I say things publicly to you all, that, hey, when we’re Christians, and we love God, and we’re supposed to shine our light, people are supposed to see a difference in us. Is there anybody that you know in modern culture that doesn’t want this for their life? See, Jesus is calling right now, and He’s saying, “You better listen to that boy.” I’m telling you.
Even those watching via the internet are laughing right now. They’re drinking their coffee. “Honey, you got to come in here. This guy’s funny.”
But look at that. I just want you to see this. This is so important that we get a hold of this, because this transformational.
You say, “Chip, I just need some help. I don’t want to live.”
I’m giving you help. I’m showing you here. This is not what you want to do. This is what we need to do.
Okay, last thing. Realize the difference between justice and mercy.
These are concepts that are a little foreign to us. We’re like, “I think I understand this. I think I understand.” We get generalities, but let me explain how this works here.
Justice is what we want when we are being accused of something we didn’t do.
See, injustice would be that we’re guilty for something that we didn’t do. That’s an unjust thing. We want justice. We want justice when we’re being accused of something that we didn’t do. That’s what we want. We want to be exonerated.
However, mercy is what we want when we are guilty of something that we did.
Now, knowing that, I just want to lay this out there. When we’ve done something to someone else, we want mercy. But when someone’s done something to us, unfortunately, we want to put justice on them rather than giving them mercy.
You want mercy. All of us want mercy. Not anybody in here doesn’t want mercy, because we know we need mercy.
Well, here’s what Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
You want mercy? Give mercy. Don’t hold it against somebody. Don’t sit back for the justice. Don’t try to get justice.
“Oh God, if He just could get them. Get them. Get them. Sic them, God. Get ahold of them. Just tear them apart. Just claw into their flesh, and rip them apart, and all this stuff.”
That’s not the prayer that Jesus prayed for you and me when He hung on the cross. He said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And that was just as much for the Roman soldiers as it was for Chip Bennett. We want mercy. To give mercy we need to be people of mercy.
Now, this is where I want to have just a quick chat with you all. Some of you are going, “You know what, that’s good. I need to live a life of forgiveness. I get it.” But I want to tell you something, because this is so important. You cannot live a life of forgiveness without Jesus. You cannot do it.
If you’re in here today and you’re like, “Man, I’ve got some unforgiveness, but I’m not sure where I’m at with Jesus,” this is the time for you to say, “You know what, I need to get Jesus in my life, because I see the benefits of this.”
I’m telling you, you cannot do this without Jesus. Okay, but even for those of you all who are Christians, can I tell you again, you cannot do this without Jesus. You need Jesus to do this stuff. You cannot do it in your own strength.
And so, what we need to do is we need to take a moment. Jesus is always here. It’s just that our senses aren’t always heightened enough to realize that He’s here. You know, when we praise and worship God and we go, “Oh man, the Lord is here.” No, He was already there. You’re just now realizing that He’s there. You’ve allowed yourself to realize that He’s there.
Okay, He’s here.
What I want us to do though is I want us to realize that He’s here, and I want us to ask Him, “Jesus, help me to dump some of these areas of unforgiveness right here on the floor today so I can move forward.”
Because this is a root, and the fruit of that root may be all kinds of things that you’re doing in your life that you want to get victory over. To get victory over those symptoms it’s going to have to be dealing with this area of unforgiveness.
Some of you got letters you need to write. Some of you got phone calls you need to make. Some of you have graves you need to visit. But the bottom line is if we want to walk in the fullness of God, God has given us His Spirit. He’s given us provision. He’s given us all things that pertain to life and Godliness. They bottom line is we’ve got to use the things that He’s given to us in the areas that it needs to be used in. We don’t need to keep shooting at things that are not going to give us the victory that we need. We need to deal with the issues that we really have to overcome. And one of those areas is unforgiveness.
And I suspect there’s many people in here that this is probably speaking to in a real way. And you know there’s an area that you need to move forward with. And I just want to take a moment, and let’s pray. Let’s ask Jesus to show up in a mighty way here, and really speak to our hearts. And give us some victory so we can move forward, and get these things out of our life.
Dear Heavenly Father, I come to You right now in the name of Your Son. Lord Jesus, walk the aisles of this sanctuary right now. Walk the aisles of this sanctuary with that key that only You have, that unlocks the handcuffs of unforgiveness in our lives.
Lord, I pray right now in Jesus’ name that there would be unforgiveness being dealt with, Lord. I pray that many of us would allow You to search us, and know our hearts, and to really get on the depths of the inside of us. And if there be any wicked way, if there be any area of unforgiveness as far back as it may go, Lord I pray in Jesus’ name that You would give us the ability and the strength to let that go in Jesus’ name, so that we can walk out of here dealing with the real thing, the root cause of many of our symptoms.
Lord, I pray that that would be a reality here. Lord, I pray in Jesus’ name for that person that’s been hurt, that’s held it in. And today it’s brought it up, and so much of them wants to get back. So much of them is hurt on the inside. So much of them doesn’t know what to do. Lord, right now in Jesus’ name, Lord let them hear Your voice. “My child, lay it down. I laid it down for you, and I’ve given you the strength to lay it down. You will walk in so much more victory if you can lay this down than holding it in on the inside.”
Lord, let that be a reality in the lives of Your people here today, for Your glory and for Your honor.
And so, Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You’d watch over us, and protect us, and lead, and guide us. Help us, Lord, to continue to be that church that You’ve called us to be. And Lord, help us to be those that reflect Christ, because we are people that live in forgiveness.
We love You. We thank You. We praise You for all that You’ve done, and all that You’re going to continue to do. In Jesus’ name we pray. And everybody said, Amen.
Give the Lord a big hand clap, and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody.